Blue Devils return to White House

Liz Janangelo stood near the South Lawn of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue last Friday, her sense of giddy excitement overwhelmed by the blistering sun. The 2006 Duke graduate must have appeared tired under the baking rays, because a coach from another school asked if she felt OK.

"Oh no, I'm fine," Janangelo replied. "This is old hat for us."

The coach looked perplexed before senior Jennifer Pandolfi explained.

"This is her third time here."

Here meaning the White House-to be honored for two national championships, to meet President George W. Bush. Again.

The Blue Devils' day in Washington, D.C. was part of the biennial Sports Championship Day, a program that affords eight national champions the opportunity to visit the nation's capitol and schmooze with the president.

Members of the 2006 and 2007 NCAA tournament-winning squads-in addition to the current Duke freshmen and several staff members-attended the event. Before chatting for a few minutes with the Blue Devils, the president issued a greeting of, "Welcome back again," referencing Duke's prior trips to his home. In both his talk with the team and speech about the squads, Bush commented on the team's large margin of victory in its last national championship, in spite of the gusting wind at the LPGA's International Legends Course.

Contrary to head coach Dan Brooks, who has now brought his teams to meet the president three times, Jennie Lee was a newcomer to the historical charm of D.C. The junior did not sleep the night before-but standing in the White House's Red Room, a jolt of caffeine was the last thing she needed.

"When we were actually in the room to meet the president, I just couldn't stand still," Lee said. "I was so nervous. I didn't know what to do with myself. I was just so excited-bouncing off the walls."

Fellow junior Amanda Blumenherst, the two-time defending National Player of the Year, was slightly more composed, even though she had not been to the tourist mecca since a fifth-grade field trip. On a tour of the East Wing, the history major was quick to appreciate the White House's memorable quirks, such as pieces from every president's china and the hanging portraits of all the nation's leaders.

For veteran golfers like Janangelo and Pandolfi, the experience was far from new, but never stale. Not every college student-or athlete-earns the chance to visit the White House. One of the most thrilling parts of the return trip was observing the reactions of the non-seniors, Pandolfi said.

"They were asking a lot of questions about what we were going to do," she said. "I don't think it gets old, going to the White House."

In case it did, one of Duke's assistant coaches invited the president, a rumored 15-handicap, to play the Washington Duke Golf Club. Golfing is a typical presidential pastime, but it's one that Bush has recently abandoned. He told the Blue Devils that he has vowed to stay off the links for the remainder of his term, saying he does not want the mother of a soldier in Iraq to see him hacking balatas while her son is in the trenches.

Although the Blue Devils are the favorites to win this year's national title, they will not be greeted by Bush's now-familiar Texas drawl should they bring another trophy back to Durham. Two years from now, Bush will be long gone and the White House will be inhabited by another president-quite possibly former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani.

"It'd be neat if [Duke golfer] Andrew Giuliani's dad becomes president," Blumenherst said. "Then we can say, 'Hey, we're going to your house!'"


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