WJ sports rivalries heating up


Photo courtesy of Lifetouch

Senior Aidan Williams dives for a loose ball as a small fight emerges in the WJ-Churchill football game last November. WJ’s rivalry with Churchill extends beyond the athletic setting, as students from each school plagiarized the other school’s stadiums.

With the winter sports season well underway, some of Walter Johnson’s rivalries have reignited with several neighboring schools. The extremely competitive nature of varsity athletics today, with packed stadiums and collegiate scholarships at play, brings out the best (and worst) of players and fans.

Perhaps Walter Johnson’s fiercest rival is Bethesda’s own Bethesda-Chevy Chase. During a hockey match between the schools in November 2017, a student filmed an all-out brawl among other students in the stands, with police having to separate them. The student who filmed the altercation sent the video to Barstool Sports, who posted the video for their 6.2 million Instagram followers to see, and the video accumulated 1.5 million views.

I heard some noise and looked over and saw a bunch of fans fighting,” junior defenseman Mike Greene said. “It didn’t really surprise me given the rivalry of the schools and that fans from both teams were right next to each other.”

During a swim meet against B-CC last season, a group of B-CC students performed a juggling routine on the pool’s platform. The WJ team, feeling disrespected, took to their unofficial Instagram page to hurl a number of insults at the Barons, with senior captain Dermot O’Kelly being especially vocal.

“It was immature and ill-timed for [B-CC juggling] to perform at our meet. They made it all about them, but what can you expect from those students?” O’Kelly said.

This year WJ had another swim meet against B-CC, which ended in a victory for the boys and loss for the girls. While the B-CC juggling team did appear for the meet, lifeguards informed them that they could not perform their routine. The schools also met for a football game in October, with a number of Bethesda police officers in attendance to prevent any confrontations between students.

Walt Whitman High School is another cross-town rival. While WJ and Whitman have been rivals for decades due to their close proximity and similar athletic achievements, the rivalry has intensified in recent years due to several turns of events.

I’m excited that we beat Whitman in our last home matchup [in basketball],” senior guard Dwonn Williams said. “We still have one game left against them so we hope to dominate them again.”

Additionally, in January 2017, groups of students from both Walter Johnson and Churchill took turns spray-painting the other school’s stadiums. The vandals defaced scoreboards and plaques, which caused serious and costly damage. Bethesda police officers suspect the vandalism was a byproduct of the sports rivalry between Walter Johnson and Churchill, according to Derek Turner of the MCPS Public Information Office.

In November 2018, WJ football lost a close game to Churchill 36-28, but bounced back in a 70-52 victory at home in basketball.