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Stafford’s own Olympians recognized

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Former Olympian and Stafford Senior High School graduate Jeff Rouse unveils the historical marker at the Massad Family YMCA.  / Photos by Peter Cihelka

Former Olympian and Stafford Senior High School graduate Jeff Rouse unveils the historical marker at the Massad Family YMCA. / Photos by Peter Cihelka

Young athletes swinging open the doors of the Massad Family YMCA on Butler Road in southern Stafford County will now be able to gain inspiration from the story of three Stafford High School graduates who made it to the Olympics.

Three-time Olympic gold medalist Jeff Rouse helped unveil a historical marker just outside the YMCA on Wednesday. The marker describes the accomplishments of Rouse and two other Olympians—Conrad Adams and the late Mark Lenzi—whose beginnings all trace back to Stafford.

“Because we were in different sports very rarely did it get mentioned that the three of us were all from Stafford and went [to the Olympics] together,” Rouse said. “I think that fact got lost. This [the historical marker] is something that will last a long time.”

The historical marker is the first of many that will be unveiled throughout Stafford this year. The Stafford 350th anniversary committee has funded 20 markers, each chronicling a different chapter in Stafford’s history to celebrate the county’s 350th anniversary.

Former Olympian Jeff Rouse hugs Ellie Lenzi, mother of late Olympic diver Mark Lenzi, at the ceremony unveiling a marker honoring Rouse, Lenzi and Conrad Adams.

Former Olympian Jeff Rouse hugs Ellie Lenzi, mother of late Olympic diver Mark Lenzi, at the ceremony unveiling a marker honoring Rouse, Lenzi and Conrad Adams.

“It was much needed. I mean, how many times do you think this is going to happen when three from the same high school, three friends, go to the Olympics?” said Ellie Lenzi, the mother of Lenzi, who medaled in diving at the 1992 and 1996 Olympics. Lenzi passed away two years ago at the age of 43.

After earning a gold and a silver medal in swimming in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain, Rouse won two gold medals in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Rouse also held the world record in the 100-meter backstroke for nearly a decade.

Lenzi won a gold medal for diving in the 1992 Olympics and went on to earn a bronze medal in diving in the 1996 Olympics.

Adams, who is now an attorney in Texas, was the captain of the U.S. Olympic Pentathlon Team in the 1992 Olympics. Adams’ father was in attendance on Wednesday.

Lenzi, Rouse and Adams carpooled to swimming practices as kids. Adams later practiced at the YMCA where the historical marker now sits.

According to Jane Conner, with the Stafford Historical Society, Adams was glad that the historical marker would be placed outside the YMCA instead of a school because of the role the YMCA played early on in his career.

Their sports brought the three together again when they all went to compete in the 1992 Olympics.

Conner didn’t think that a similar incident has ever occurred before.

“These three are part of Stafford’s modern-day history,” Conner said. “We know that the children that go by and see this plaque will have a hero that they can live up to.”

Rouse, who now works for Wells Fargo and is on the board at the Massad Family YMCA, hoped that would be true. He hugged Ellie Lenzi on Wednesday before the two swapped memories with family and friends.

Vanessa Remmers: 540/735-1975

vremmers@freelancestar.com

 

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