The Blue & Gold

The official newspaper of Chamblee High School, preserving the past for the future today!

The official newspaper of Chamblee High School, preserving the past for the future today!

The Blue & Gold

The official newspaper of Chamblee High School, preserving the past for the future today!

The Blue & Gold

Chamblee’s MVP: Solai Washington’s Legacy

Travis Clark
Washington celebrates after the Reggae Girlz receive their first ever World Cup point.

Summer break is a time to let loose for most Chamblee staff and students. Some students work part-time, relax by the pool, or sleep until noon. On the other hand, Solai Washington (‘24) had a summer like no other; she played with the Jamaican Women’s National Team, also known as the Reggae Girlz, in the FIFA Women’s World Cup. 

Washington’s talents are no secret to Chamblee. She helped lead Chamblee to victory in the 5A Georgia High School Association (GHSA) State Championships last year, contributing four goals in the nationally-ranked team’s 9-0 shutout win. Additionally, Washington plays club soccer at Concorde Fire in the Elite Clubs National League (ECNL), the most competitive and highest-level league in American youth soccer. Unsurprisingly, Washington has also earned several honors in ECNL, including a national championship win with her Concorde team and a spot as a player on the national “All-American” team. Arguably her most impressive accomplishment thus far, however, was playing with the Reggae Girlz. The World Cup, soccer’s most important tournament, was an athletic level that no Chamblee player (current or former) had come close to reaching— until Washington.

Obviously, preparing for the World Cup was no simple task. Washington endured months of training and physical preparation internationally with the Reggae Girlz. Her biggest challenge during the Cup, however, was mental. 

“I would get super nervous before games and have a lot of pregame anxiety,” said Washington. “On game days, I would have to eat plain food because I couldn’t taste anything that [would make me nauseous]. It was awful.”

The Reggae Girlz, however, boosted Solai’s confidence throughout the tournament.

“[Playing in the World Cup] taught me a lot about myself,” said Washington. “Now, I’m able to better deal with [my anxiety] after getting some help from my teammates who are older and have more experience. On the mental side of things, I’ve gained a lot from the experience.” 

Washington made her first appearance on the world stage in the 70th minute of Jamaica’s first game against France. Her debut, understandably, was a personal highlight for Washington.

“My debut […] in our first game against France was definitely my favorite [moment],” said Washington. “I think once I was actually on the field, [my] nerves kind of went away. It’s just a matter of getting to that point.”

This groundbreaking accomplishment— unfortunately for Washington’s family, friends, and fans back home in the U.S.— occurred around 7:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time on a summer Sunday morning. Regardless, some Chamblee students were willing to sacrifice some sleep in order to watch history in the making.

“I [woke] up really early in the morning to watch the games,” said Olivia Grove (‘24). “They were being played in Australia […] in a different time zone. I would wake up, get ready, sit down, watch the game, cheer loudly, [and] wake up my parents. All that jazz.”

Even though Washington’s athletic talents and accomplishments have established and will continue to develop a legacy for herself and Chamblee, her intelligence and personality will perhaps leave the most lasting impact on her peers and teachers. 

“I think she’s a great example for younger students,” said Gabby Mayes (‘24), a peer of Washington’s. “[She shows] that if you’re good at something, you should keep at it because you can get […] college scholarships, and maybe even a chance to play in the World Cup.” 

It is this excellence as a student and community member, combined with her athletic abilities, that earned Washington yet another historic honor: 2023 Gatorade Player of the Year, which recognizes her as Georgia’s best high school girls’ soccer player, as well as an outstanding student. Abby Wambach and Mallory Swanson, both players on the U.S. Women’s National Team, were also honored with the same state-level award as high school athletes. Washington is the first girl from DeKalb County to win this award.

Between playing in the World Cup, winning a slew of state-level and national awards and honors, and keeping up with academics as a senior, Washington somehow manages to make time for relaxation. She and the rest of the Reggae Girlz even had some downtime in Australia, visiting some local wildlife as a team.

“We saw wombats, kangaroos, and koalas,” said Washington. “That was probably my favorite off-the-field experience [in Australia].”

This school year, Washington looks forward to spending time with her friends and participating in senior year activities before attending Duke University (the school she verbally committed to during her junior year) on an athletic scholarship. She’s interested in majoring in psychology.

“I’m taking AP Psychology now, and I really love the class,” said Washington. “It’s interesting to me, which makes me think that I’ll like it in college.”

As for athletics, Washington has Olympic qualifiers with Jamaica coming up in September. With good things sure to come for Washington this season at Chamblee and abroad, only time will tell as to where Washington’s visibly bright future will take her.

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About the Contributor
Sydney Grove, Staff Writer
Sydney Grove (‘24) is a staff writer for the Blue & Gold. This is her first year writing for the publication. In five years, she hopes to still be continuing her insatiable pursuit of the bag. Sydney’s three favorite things are surreal horror movies, her Doc Marten Mary Janes, and Snoopy.

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