By Alan Goldenbach
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Juashaunna Kelly, the Theodore Roosevelt High School senior track star who was disqualified from Saturday's Montgomery Invitational for wearing a noncompliant uniform, wore the same unitard yesterday and set three personal records at the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association Invitational at the Prince George's Sports & Learning Complex in Landover.
Kelly, a devout Muslim, has worn the same uniform for two years, a single piece of spandex that includes a hood and covers her torso, arms and legs in accordance with her religious beliefs.
The left arm of the uniform is blue, the right is orange and the hood is similarly split between those colors. That design, officials at the Montgomery Invitational said, violated a rule of the National Federation of State High School Associations, which sanctioned the event, by not being "a single-solid color and unadorned, except for a single school name or insignia no more than 2 1/4 inches."
DCIAA Executive Director Allen Chin, who was present at yesterday's meet, said: "She's been allowed to run in our meets for the past two years with that. It is a solid color; there's just one solid color on one arm and a different one on the other arm."
Kelly said she brought a long-sleeve white T-shirt yesterday (she didn't bring one last Saturday) in case meet officials demanded she change. She said she was told, however, that because her uniform matched Roosevelt's school colors, she could stay in her original uniform.
The story of Kelly's uniform controversy, first reported yesterday in The Post, drew the attention of national wire services and television networks, and two local television stations sent reporters to yesterday's meet.
"All the talk put a little more pressure on me to go out and perform," said Kelly, who set personal records in winning the 300 and 500 meters and finished second in the 3,200.
As Kelly continues to run, however, she understands she might encounter others who are adamant that her uniform complies with the NFHS rule.
"If we change [her uniform], then people will say, 'Yeah, she knew she was wrong,' " Sarah Kelly, Juashaunna's mother, said yesterday. "But if something is going to be said every time that she can't wear it, then I guess we don't have a choice."
Ego Ferguson, president of Ego Sports, a sports apparel distributor that services several D.C. public high schools, said he would gladly design a single-colored uniform for Kelly.
"We could start production on it and have it ready by Monday," Ferguson said.
Other track coaches have questioned the Montgomery County meet director's ruling, saying it was a not a violation worth arguing.
"It was not giving anyone an advantage," said Marvin Parker, the girls' track and field coach at Dunbar. "I don't think any coach would have a problem with that kid running. It's not that serious. There's an exception to every rule."