A number of different inner-city schools struggle to keep up with their more well-off suburban counterparts when it comes to facilities, yet still manage to find success on the field, court and track. Still, Cincinnati (Ohio) Shroder High's track and field program takes that factor an entire step further: It has athletes winning track titles without a real track.
As reported in a fantastic feature by Sports Illustrated contributor and Cincinnati Enquirer columnist Paul Daugherty, the Shroder 4x100 girls relay squad recently captured the state's Division II state title with a blistering time of 48.8 seconds. It did so despite training on a makeshift track comprised largely of a bus parking lane and the run-off from a parking lot of a nearby bank.
In any given training run, Shroder athletes can find themselves dodging oil slicks and manhole covers and, if a nearby motorist misses a turn, having to come to a sudden, complete stop to avoid crashing into a car.
Needless to say, the fact that the Shroder team is training on asphalt doesn't help the team's cause, either. As Daugherty pointed out, the Shroder girls were left with persistent soreness in the hamstrings and shin splints from constant training on blacktop asphalt.
Even with relatively extraordinary training restrictions aimed at keeping the team fit throughout the season -- Shroder coach Gerald Warmack limited the squad to one "hard" practice per week -- the team was beset with plenty of injury setbacks.
The most notable of those came to Domynique Shelby, part of the state champion relay team who dealt with chronic injuries in her hamstrings and both of her shins and hips.
Still, after training on asphalt for months, when the Shroder squad finally reached competitive track meets they cruised on top-flight tracks. After all, compared to dodging cars and racing over drainage grates, sprinting on springy rubber is simple.
"We're kind of landlocked," Warmack told SI.com. "If you want to coach track at Shroder, you'd better be flexible.
"The kids don't complain. They just run."