June 23, 2011
Uniforms in the world of high school track and field tend to be pretty, well, uniform. If a team isn't wearing tight tops and shorts made of spandex (or of other material that is nearly as form-fitting), that squad's uniforms aren't the most current.
Yet that's not the case in Washington, D.C., where the Washington Post reported that the city's best public school girls track team broke free of the competition when it ditched its traditional uniforms for something a bit more retro: Skirts. (See above photo, second to the left in the back and the girl leading in the front are wearing them).
To be exact, the uniform items that helped the Dunbar (D.C.) girls track team excel were skorts, skirts with black compression shorts attached to them. When the team's female athletes put them on, they claimed to feel significantly less self-conscious about their appearance, leaving the runners to focus solely on their events.
That additional focus more than made up for any lost streamlining as Dunbar athletes stepped forward with faster times and something that may be responsible for those improvements: Significantly more self confidence.
"That skort is a miracle worker," Dunbar star Destiny Phillips, one of the team's co-captains, told the Post. "You look good, you run good. It makes you feel different when you're out on the track, like no one can come get you."
The new uniforms were the brainchild of legendary Dunbar coach Marvin Parker, who has won an astonishing 29 total cross country or track and field titles in just six years at the school. The coach said he was inspired by a combination of witnessing self conscious athletes be distracted before the start of their events and then going home and seeing old footage of tennis great Althea Gibson, who demolished opponents while wearing a traditional white skirt.
Since he had seen women jogging in skorts, Parker thought it might be possible to have a skort designed that would still allow the more dramatic motion needed in racing. A Maryland company called Lightning Fitness Wear designed a prototype, almost identical to the one pictured above, which tested successfully with Parker's athletes. After that, the program solicited $1,500 from its alumni foundation to pay for 30 uniforms, complete with a skort.
The rest, as they say, is history. After an excellent regular season, Dunbar won the girls team title at the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association outdoor championships by an astounding 133 points.
Throughout the entire ride, the team got more accustomed to its unique uniforms, all while receiving compliments week-in, week-out.
"I told the girls it's great to be first," Parker told the Post. "Everywhere we've worn them we've gotten nothing but compliments. The girls thought it was a little weird at first, but then they thought it was cute, as they say."
Added [Dunbar athlete] Manaiza Kelley: "I feel classy in it. I feel like a woman."
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