Wakefield is now in the spring season of its second year in the Greater Piedmont Athletic Conference, and Athletic Director Tee Summers is feeling good about Wakefield’s fit with the new organization, both thus far and going forward.
The Greater Piedmont Athletic Conference, or GPAC, was formed after philosophical differences among schools brought about the disbanding of the Delaney Athletic Conference, or DAC. Seven former DAC schools who felt themselves to be united by complementary philosophies, goals, and values—Wakefield, Highland, Foxcroft, Fredericksburg Academy, Quantico, Randolph-Macon Academy, and Tandem Friends—joined together and formed the new conference from the ground up to reflect those shared values.
“This group of schools is philosophically aligned,” says Mr. Summers. “We all agree that [high school sports] is about the kids. It is about respecting one another, and about appreciating and respecting our diverse backgrounds.”
All schools’ sports teams go through “peaks and valleys” as various teams build, graduate veteran players, and rebuild again, and mutual understanding and support of this ebb and flow are among the values Mr. Summers sees as the basis for the new conference. Such support is part of the respect that he hopes the GPAC will encourage and model for student athletes.
In the nearly two years since the formation of the GPAC, Wakefield has been enjoying a run of strength in several sports, notably in boys’ basketball and both boys’ and girls’ soccer. The early GPAC seasons have thus brought a number of accolades.
Last year, for example, Wakefield fielded 24 All-Conference athletes across all sports; this year, that number looks like it will be closer to 35, according to Mr. Summers. Boys’ soccer and boys’ basketball have been regular-season champions of the conference for the last two years, with boys’ basketball also clinching the tournament championship last year. Senior Jess Seaborn has the been the GPAC MVP for boys’ soccer for the last two years, and in boys’ basketball, the GPAC MVP title went last year to Wakefield junior Ale Ford and this past year to junior Xavier Jenkins. Girls’ varsity volleyball was conference champion in 2021, and Girls’ varsity swimming was the conference champion this year. Girls’ soccer was the regular season champion last year, and the team hopes to repeat that feat again when this spring’s season concludes. (This year also brought State-level recognition to four individuals: cross country All-State runners Curtis Leachman and Emmett Leachman, and All-State soccer players Jess Seaborn and Seth Maxwell.)
And Wakefield coaches have been singled out for praise over the last two years as well: GPAC Coach of the Year award for boys’ basketball went last year to then-parent Al Ford and this year to Tee Summers; and in a truly eye-popping run, soccer coach Grant Massey has received back-to-back Coach of the Year accolades last year and this year for boys’ soccer, AND last year’s Coach of the Year for girls’ soccer, with this spring’s season just getting underway.
Mr. Summers says that it is not only girls’ soccer that is looking eagerly forward to this spring’s season. “All of our spring teams are well-positioned for conference competition,” he says. “Girls’ soccer, yes, but also boys’ lacrosse, co-ed golf, and boys’ tennis all have the potential for success in GPAC this spring.”
And he is very glad to have left behind some of the negativity and disrespect that had soured the DAC. Competing in this group of seven like-minded schools, he says, has the potential to create a far better experience for everyone—especially the student athletes.
It is impossible to discuss the new GPAC without observing that the new conference retains in its ranks a long-standing and often heated—occasionally over-heated—rivalry between Wakefield and its nearest neighbor, Highland School. Mr. Summers, though—who is a graduate of Highland—is all smiles when he discusses the Wakefield/Highland relationship as it stands today.
“There have been times a few years back when the rivalry between the two schools became so heated as to start to become unhealthy,” Mr. Summers says. “But I’ve known [Highland Athletic Director] Gary Leake since I was in second grade! And he and I understand and communicate very clearly with each other. We both work to keep things positive.”
With their ongoing influence, and the removal of some of the obstacles to sportsmanlike behavior that had crept into the DAC, relationships among all seven GPAC member schools should continue to develop in positive ways, reflecting the shared values that prompted the conference’s creation.