The 2016 Rio Olympics captivated millions of Americans this past summer, as they tuned in to see who would take the gold. Montgomery County’s own Katie Ledecky, Jack Conger, Ashley Nee, and Helen Maroulis made their mark in history, and they are now beloved Olympians. A ceremony was held to honor them on Monday, December 19, at the Silver Spring Civic Building.
The celebration of Montgomery County’s finest was open to the public, and Richard Montgomery High School’s marching band opened the ceremony with the National Anthem. While Maroulis could not attend due to traveling issues, the other three Olympians were introduced by Gabriel Albornoz, Director of the Department of Recreation. Once the audience had calmed, County Executive Ike Leggett gave a speech praising Montgomery County.
“Montgomery County is home to one of the most brightest, terrific communities,” he said.
Ashley Nee can attest to that. Several years ago, she left her sport of kayaking after a shoulder injury robbed her of her chance of going to the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing. This year, however, she made this year’s U.S. Slalom team with the help of the community. She set up a GoFundMe account, and the submissions given to her by residents of Montgomery County helped her pay off the expenses necessary to achieve her dreams.
“Finally achieving it means the world to me. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my support crew, and to me, that means Montgomery County,” Nee said.
Leggett awarded Nee a beautiful painting representing Montgomery County. The background consisted of Strathmore, and the foreground was littered with various musicians from all over the world, highlighting Montgomery County’s diversity. Ledecky and Conger were given this painting as well.
Following Nee’s speech, Conger went up to the podium. This was Conger’s first post-Olympic speech after the infamous gas station destruction he partook in. Now carrying out his four month suspension, Conger has learned from his mistakes and a bright future still remains before him.
“Growing up in Maryland, the opportunities were endless…I just wanted to thank everyone for supporting me,” Conger said. While Nee was a Darnestown native and had the wonderful Potomac River to train on, Conger resided in Rockville and swam for the Rockville Montgomery Swim Club (RMSC) under head coach Sue Chen. In his high school years, Conger broke the 30-year-old national high school record in the 500 yard freestyle by three seconds.
Katie Ledecky has shattered many records as well in her swimming career, including American and world records, and she left Rio with four gold medals and one silver.
“I really have to thank all of you. I’ve lived in Montgomery County my whole life, I have to thank my parents for raising me in Montgomery County… I can’t even describe the amount of support that we all received while we were in Rio. That’s what keeps us going,” Ledecky said.
The newly elected Council President, Roger Berliner, was incredibly pleased by the accomplishments of Montgomery County’s Olympians. “Their performances in Rio made our country proud, our county proud. Not just because they won gold medals, but because of their resolve, and their tenacity,” he said.
Berliner and Leggett then presented a proclamation honoring the four Olympians. Mrs. Parker Hamilton, Director of the Montgomery County Public Libraries, followed suit, giving each Olympian a packet of fan mail written by Montgomery County Residents. Lee Banchu, Chair of the Maryland Commission for Women, announced that she will be inducting Maroulis and Ledecky into the Maryland Women’s Hall of fame on March 16, 2017.
Jacqueline Keenan, marketing Manager for Rockville Town Square gave huge flip flops signed by the residents of the area to Ledecky and Conger. The flip flops wished good luck to the Olympians.
The ceremony closed with a picture session for the children–a wonderful end to a spectacular night. Montgomery County takes great pride in the accomplishments of its residents, and the Olympians we honor fully embody the values we cherish. Hard work, passion and perseverance led them to greatness, and we love them for it.
Article by MoCo Student staff writer Robyn Fohouo of Richard Montgomery High School