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Chris Vander Woude is new athletic director of Saint John Paul the Great

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On his first official day as the new athletic director at Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School in Dumfries last May, Chris Vander Woude found himself facing off against his older brother, Dan Vander Woude, the athletic director of Seton School in Manassas, during a home baseball game.

“You can’t make this stuff up,” said Chris, also a Seton graduate. “God has a great sense of humor. I had lots of Seton friends teasing that I’d have to wear colors from both schools, but I told them, ‘I’m a Wolf now.’”

That kind of dedication and spirit is exactly what principal Dominican Sister Mary Veronica Keller had in mind when searching for a new athletic director.

“We are thrilled to welcome Chris to John Paul the Great,” she said. “His leadership capabilities and experience with college athletics combined with his Christ-centered approach to team sports is the perfect mix to help us grow our programs in all the right ways.”

A Northern Virginia native and member of a well-known Catholic family in the area, Chris is new to the school but established in the community. Having served most recently as dean of student life at Christendom College in Front Royal and seven years as its athletic director, he brings more than a decade of coaching and playing experience to the growing athletic program.

“I have watched JP from the start and followed its growth and success. I have great admiration for what JP stands for and what they have accomplished in the lives of their students and families,” he said.

The school’s mission, as expressed through the unique bioethics curriculum, was a draw for him.

“Over the last few years I have grown to value the connection between sports and faith, which St. John Paul II spoke of frequently during his pontificate. It is through the lens of our faith … properly understanding the human person, that sports can truly reach excellence,” he said. “When done well, sports can help form virtue and character in players and coaches, and even spectators. JP already has this Catholic perspective, and it’s one I hope to nurture.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017