The Crimson Tide lost its own state-of-the-art track two years ago to make way for a gleaming school building that is set to open in August. As they wait out the construction, the runners have vowed not to let the price of progress slow them down.
By this time next year, the existing school building should be razed and replaced with a roughly $4 million athletic facility that includes a track that Coach Marvin Parkerhelped design.
For now, the boys’ and girls’ teams hold most of their practices at nearby McKinley Tech. While the boys walk there accompanied by their coach, the girls navigate the city streets for a mile-long jog that has become integrated into their warmup routine.
In spite of those challenges, the Crimson Tide swept both the boys’ and girls’ team titles at last week’s D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association meet, with the girls further solidifying their status as the gold standard for track in the District. Both teams hope to add more hardware at the inaugural D.C. State Athletic Association meet, which begins Thursday at Spingarn.
“It’s just part of the process,” said Freeland, who won all four of her events at the DCIAA meet. “That’s what the sport is about. Nothing comes easy. It takes a lot of determination and willpower. You have to be willing to work.”
When the spring began, Dunbar’s athletes were grateful to have regular use of a track, even if it meant splitting lanes with the Trainers. The team practiced outdoors a few times during the indoor season but mostly used the gymnasium or the parking garage connected to the school.
Parker and boys’ coach Kurt Bembridge designed special workouts to maximize the effectiveness of the garage’s sloping ramps and put up orange cones to mark the oil slicks.
Senior Michael Smith, who won four gold medals at the DCIAA meet, logged competitive indoor times and said he finished certain races thinking, “Just imagine if we had our own track.”
Dunbar Athletic Director Johnnie Walker said he has done his best to accommodate his athletes through the construction but has been met with resistance from other schools.
The football team was bussed to Cardozo for fall practice, the only outdoor sport to receive this luxury. Even that squad had to lug all its equipment there and back each day, and players walk down North Capitol to Gonzaga for spring workouts.
The track team’s popular Crimson Tide Invitational has moved to Spingarn the past two years, and Walker said the meet will seek a new home next spring before the new facility is ready.
“Nobody really wants us on their track,” Walker said. “We’ve had an uphill battle.”