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Olympic gold medalist among Hall of Fame inductees

Ransom Everglades inducted two-time Olympic gold medalist Ashleigh Johnson '12 into the RE Athletic Hall of Fame along with tennis player John P. Geraghty ’73 and three-sport athlete Lola Arellano Pegg ’93 during a lively dinner and recognition at the Pagoda on Oct. 6, the eve of the school's 2022 Homecoming celebration.
"I am just thrilled to be here," said Chief Operating Officer and Interim Head of the Upper School David Clark '86, himself an RE Athletic Hall of Famer. "This night has so much meaning. It means so much to all of you and our community and school." 

The inductees were welcomed by 13 hall of fame members in attendance: Cathy Harrison Balestra '90, Beverley, Clark, Julie Greenwald Friedland '91, Andy Hague '74, Jessica Greenwald Ladin '93, Gonas, Faculty Emerita Penny Matthews, Alumni Association Co-President Todd Mestepey '91, Gordon Myers '92, Lisa Sayfie '91, trustee James Weaver '90 and Director of Admission and Enrollment Management Amy Sayfie Zichella '93.  

Each inductee received a plaque and spoke briefly, and all were surrounded by family and RE friends. This week marked Johnson's first return to campus since after the 2016 and 2021 Olympics, when she let teachers and students see and hold her Olympic gold medals.

Johnson, who will try for a third gold medal in Paris in 2024, won five state championships (four in water polo, one in swimming) at RE. She played on three world championship teams and has competed professionally overseas. Still considered the best water polo goalie in the world, she shared memories and gratitude from her years at RE, noting that she didn't realize how lucky she was until she departed.

"This is unbelievable – such a cool class to be inducted with," Johnson said. "I'm so honored and so proud ... There have been so many people that had such a great impact on my life ... I would never be here today without all of those people. Thank you to Ransom for being one of the greatest ‘teams’ of my life."

Geraghty won a state title at RE in 1972, then went on to captain the University of Miami team, achieve All-America recognition, and reach the top 300 in singles on the ATP men's tennis tour. He played in the U.S. Open and at Wimbledon. Yet he reflected on the people who influenced him in life and at RE, namely teaching legends Dan Bowden, Mike Stokes, Jim Beverley '62 (who was in attendance) and Barbara Lester.

"I received a wonderful, wonderful education here," Geraghty said. "The teachers were just wonderful ... Ransom provided me with everything."

Pegg achieved four varsity letters by the time she was in eighth grade, excelling as a swimmer and water polo player. When she decided to play basketball in her junior year, she also starred on the court, winning all-county recognition. She received all-county honors five times, and participated in six water polo state championships before heading off to Davidson College. She and Allen Pegg have four children at RE: Jackson '23, Quinn '26, Nate '26 and Lola '26.

“Ransom is the greatest thing ever to happen to me in my life,” she said. “It’s the greatest decision my parents made … I’ve always been proud to be a Raider, and I learned so much about life and commitment through my high school career.”

Bothwell Gonas '89 introduced Geraghty; Konky Arellano '90 introduced Pegg, his sister; and RE math and computer science teacher and water polo coach Eric Lefebvre introduced Johnson. Gonas extolled Geraghty's greatness, calling him one of the best tennis players to come out of RE; Arellano drew laughter comparing his sister's extraordinary accomplishments in the pool and on the court to his less impressive exploits; and Lefebvre shared a host of anecdotes about Johnson as a burgeoning superstar.

When she arrived to RE as a freshman, Lefebvre said, the girls’ water polo team had five extraordinary players who would go on to play water polo at the NCAA Division I level. Johnson immediately stymied those girls in practice, blocking shot after shot. Lefebvre loved her sweet competitiveness.

“She wasn’t going to be mean; she was just going to block every shot you took and then smile about it,” he said. 

Added Lefebvre: “She wanted to be a great teammate. She wanted to show her teammates they could all contribute equally in some way. She is a genuine person who cares about the people around her.”

Clark and Interim Head of School Rachel Rodriguez welcomed the inductees and guests – and urged them to attend the homecoming activities on Oct. 7.

“This is an amazing evening,” Clark said. “Congratulations to Ashleigh, Lola and John – you all are incredible.”
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Founded in 1903, Ransom Everglades School is a coeducational, college preparatory day school for grades 6 - 12 located on two campuses in Coconut Grove, Florida. Ransom Everglades School produces graduates who "believe that they are in the world not so much for what they can get out of it as for what they can put into it." The school provides rigorous college preparation that promotes the student's sense of identity, community, personal integrity and values for a productive and satisfying life, and prepares the student to lead and to contribute to society.