"I'm not letting this strike stop me from getting my education or playing sports," said Anthony Pollock, a sophomore at Spingarn High School. "I know we've been practicing hard for track season. We're out every day at 3:30 and going on as if nothing has happened. Strike or no strike, we would have been out on the track at the same time anyway."
Pollock's remarks echoed the general feelings of many of the D.C. public school athletes whose spring sports season has been curtailed by the Washington teachers' strike, now in its 16th day.
Because of the strike, many teacher-coaches have postponed the beginning of practice for such spring sports as baseball, track, tennis, golf and girls' softball.
Many athletes have talked with their coaches and sympathize with them. At the same time some feel cheated.
"It's tough on some guys who have waited all year, say, just to play baseball," said Darryle Lindsay, who quarterbacked Eastern to the Interhigh football championship and played for the Ramblers' baseball title team last year. "Take our best pitcher, Toby Coward. This is hurting him. Many of us are trying to work out on our own, but it's not easy.
"We're the Interhigh champs and we'll be way behind everyone else. I've talked to some of my friends at other schools and they've played some practice games already."
Several baseball teams have been holding informal practices after school and on weekends.
"I don't think the strike will hurt us that much," said Cardozo Coach Frazier O'Leary. "Some of the kids are just coming off basketball season and are in shape, anyway."
The majority of the city's track teams have been working out diligently for the past few weeks. The first outdoor meet is scheduled this weekend.
"Most of the track teams have been unaffected by the strike," said Theodore Roosevelt Coach Bob Burnett. "I can't say how many coaches have supported this strike, but I do know they've found ways to work out with their teams. We haven't missed a day. We don't have a problem here where the athletes are concerned. They are coming to school."
Otto Jordan, league athletic director, expressed some displeasure and frustration that the strike has curtailed his programs. The Interhigh girls basketball tournament semifinal and final and the junior high boys and girls basketball playoffs probably will be canceled if the strike is not ended this week.
"We just won't play anymore basketball after Friday," said Jordan. "The spring season starts April 3 and I can't hold that up for any reason. I don't know how many of my spring coaches are practicing, but I'll assume they are.
"I know the kids should not be working out unsupervised. They are supposed to be in school during the day," he said. "We don't condone cutting school just to practice baseball."
Several of the teams reportedly are spending their mornings practicing rather than sitting in half-empty classrooms.
"All of my teachers are out on strike except one," said Cardozo senior Julius Holt. "All of the guys are getting together and working out at Banneker Field in the afternoons on our own. We're throwing the ball around and hitting some. It's just hard practicing without a coach."
"We're getting behind a little," said Michael Wright, a three-letter athlete at Cardozo. "The workouts have helped a little bit."
The Interhigh all-star basketball game, an annual affair that precedes the Capital Classic, will be held Thursday night at H. D. Woodson regardless of whether the strike ends.
"I've been practicing on my own and I'm hoping to play something," said Eastern's All-Met in basketball, Diane Bushrod. "I play softball, too, but we haven't had enough girls come to school to even start."
Many of the coaches are torn between what they believe to be a good cause and their concern for the students-athletes.
"We don't like being in here (working) and our program has probably suffered," said Spingarn's track coach, Hubert Gates. "My allegiance is outside, but it was a matter of economics for me to come in. The team, or at least two-thirds of them, have been coming to school to practice. The baseball team hasn't done a thing yet. This strike is tearing people apart."