UMW President Troy Paino took one for the team this morning. In fact, he took one for all 27 of Mary Washington’s Division III varsity sports teams, trading his presidential look for a wetsuit and skimming down a thousand-foot waterslide.
Nearly 2,000 people signed up for Slide FXBG, a giant slip ‘n slide that took over Hanover Street in downtown Fredericksburg. A collaboration between the city and the University of Mary Washington, the attraction paired perfectly with Eagle Nation Day. The sixth annual event, hosted by UMW Athletics, introduces community kids to college sports, student athletes and a healthier lifestyle.
Tapped to take the inaugural ride, Paino emerged from his home at Brompton in a black wetsuit, a pair of flip-flops and a cool frame of mind. He plopped onto a blue inner tube, and twisted and turned down the blue-and-orange inflatable, from the tip of the hill near the UMW Tennis Center down to Littlepage Street. Mary Washington senior Eliza Moreno got to go with him.
“We wanted a student who was highly engaged in the campus community,” Associate Dean for Student Involvement Melissa Jones said of Moreno, who plays women’s club soccer, volunteers with COAR’s food recovery program and works at the Digital Knowledge Center.
Up next were Economic Development Authority Chairman Robert Carter and Fredericksburg City Manager Tim Baroody, who said he works hard every day to create a sense of unity with UMW and the community.
Partly cloudy skies could not dampen the spirits of the kids of all ages who slipped and slid the day away.
“It’s just really, really, really fast, and I liked it,” said 8-year-old Scarlet Clark of Spotsylvania.
Hundreds of UMW student athletes served as volunteers during Eagle Nation Day, which included an array of activities that spilled onto Trench Hill. Children flocked to bouncy houses and castles, shaved ice and pizza vendors, and sports clinics taught by UMW Eagles from lacrosse, softball, rugby and more.
“Eagle Nation Day has always been important for UMW Athletics to engage the community,” said Development and Promotions Specialist Philip Pierce. “We need them to rally around us. We want true fans.”
He pointed to Mary Washington’s free games for the community, student athletes who maintain high grade point averages and Eagles’ involvement across the area through volunteer work and civic engagement.
“We’re not just here to play sports and leave,” said Danielle Newman, a right fielder on the softball team. “We’ll do anything we can for the community.”
That kind of spirit prevailed today, with the Eagle Nation Day debut of SlideFXBG, something planners have said they’d consider doing again. The huge attraction, called The Urban Slide, has popped up in cities like Dallas and Denver, but Fredericksburg just might have been the most fun.
President Paino hadn’t heard of the attraction until Fredericksburg officials approached him with the idea of the partnership. When he learned more about it, he said, he was hooked.
“I thought it was the perfect thing to create a festive atmosphere between the university and the city.”