In honor of his decades of molding students and athletes at Yorktown and Bishop O’Connell high schools, the Virginia General Assembly has passed a resolution saluting Mark Stripe.
Stripe retired from Arlington Public Schools in 2020 after a coaching career that approached a half-century in duration. The legislative attaboy – patroned by Dels. Rip Sullivan and Patrick Hope and passed unanimously by both houses – saluted Stripe’s efforts motivating young people “to challenge themselves and succeed, both in and out of the classroom, leaving a legacy that will be admired for years to come.”
Last November, the Sun Gazette wrote at length about Stripe’s career. That article follows:
A summertime Amtrak trip years ago is pretty much the reason Mark Stripe enjoyed a long career at Arlington’s Yorktown High School as a librarian and head coach of multiple sports.
Stripe, a longtime Vienna resident, recently marked his retirement from all of those positions, but didn’t rule out the possibility of coaching again some day. He still works some cross country and track and field events as a meet official.
Starting in 1987, Stripe began his long run of coaching the girls and boys Yorktown cross country and indoor and outdoor track and field teams for some 30 years each.
All of his teams included dozens of participants, and Stripe tried hard to acknowledge each one each day at practice. He wrote them letters of encouragement during the summer, and the organized coached used his position of librarian to recruit athletes.
“I enjoyed it and it was a lot of fun,” Stripe said. “We never made cuts. Our philosophy was if you improved, that’s why you were there. Not everyone was going to win a state title. I had very good high school and college coaches. When I started coaching, I wanted to do for athletes what my coaches did for me.”
Following his graduation from Millersville University in Pennsylvania in 1974, where he was a top cross country and track and field runner, Stripe’s 46-year high-school coaching career began later that year in the same state at New Oxford High School, lasting until 1986.
After meeting his future wife, Elizabeth, on an Amtrak trip, the Pennsylvania native moved to join the actress in Northern Virginia, where coincidently she graduated from Yorktown in 1976.
Stripe’s coaching career in Northern Virginia began in 1986 as the head girls cross country coach at private Bishop O’Connell High for one year. He led the Knights to a state championship that season.
Then it was on to Yorktown, starting with coaching cross country, then eventually taking on the track and field programs. Meaning, he coached all three seasons of the school year.
“It was a routine, coaching all three seasons,” said Stripe, who played multiple sports at Schuylkill Haven High School in Pennsylvania. “If I sat out one season, it would be more work to get back in.”
Stripe said the details of being a librarian carried over and helped keep his coaching duties organized.
“Coach Stripe likely coached close to 1,500 individual students during his tenure at Yorktown,” said Mike Krulfeld, the school’s director of student activities. “Amazingly, he probably still knows all of their names and best times. His genuine concern for each student is highlighted by the inclusiveness he always brought to our cross country and track teams. He eagerly welcomed students of all abilities and celebrated their success, whether it was winning a race or simply finishing the race.”
Stripe’s enthusiasm for coaching kept him dyeing his hair and beard in school colors for big meets, long after most other area coaches had stopped the tradition. If he didn’t run with his athletes, he often joined them on a bike instead.
During indoor track and field meets at Thomas Jefferson Community Center in Arlington, Stripe was a meet director and the one known for wearing a colorful balloon attached to his head so he could be easily found when needed.
When coaching Yorktown, his teams won multiple district crowns in all three sports. At one time, his Yorktown girls cross country squad owned the longest continuous streak of 22 seasons of qualifying for the Northern Region meet.
Individually, many of his athletes earned high honors in various high-school postseason meets, then went on to compete for college teams at all levels, where some four became All-Americans. Stripe coached many of Yorktown’s best athletes, including current NFL defensive back M.J. Stewart, a sprinter, relay runner and high-jumper part of one season for the track team.
One of his former athletes was Chris Williams, Yorktown current head golf coach (and football and basketball announcer.)
“At the end of the day, coach Stripe took more pride in having one more student join his teams than he did in winning one more race,” Krulfeld said. “His impact is long-standing and plentiful.”
When not coaching, Stripe is a huge baseball fan – the Philadelphia Phillies and Pittsburgh Pirates being his favor Major League teams. He made multiple trips throughout the U.S. with his late father, Jim, to attend minor- league games at different venues over the years and attended all such baseball venues in the Mid-Atlantic. Stripe’s children, Matthew and Becca, were athletes at George C. Marshall High School.
PHOTO: Mark Stripe, a Vienna resident and longtime librarian and coach at Yorktown High School, recently was honored by the Virginia General Assembly.