D.C. female track team, arguably nation’s best, didn’t even have a track to run on

Even the absence of a track couldn't stop the Dunbar High track teams.

D.C.'s Dunbar girls track team runs through the city on the way to practice -- Katherine Frey/The Washington Post
D.C.'s Dunbar girls track team runs through the city on the way to practice -- Katherine Frey/The Washington Post

The Washington, D.C., powerhouse lost its track this year due to the construction of a new school, according to a fantastic Washington Post feature on the program, but both the boys and girls still managed to sweep the DCIAA championships.

“It’s just part of the process,” Dunbar junior London Freeland -- the latest in the school's long line of track stars -- told the Post. “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.”

The work this past season consisted of jogging a mile across the city to McKinley Tech, practicing inside during the outdoor season, outside during the indoor season and even occasionally in a nearby parking garage, according to the feature.

“Nobody really wants us on their track,” Dunbar athletic director Johnnie Walker told The Washington Post. “We’ve had an uphill battle.”

While the 15-20 girls on the squad venture through the city as a warmup routine -- stopping for crosswalks and even reportedly receiving unwanted catcalls on their way -- Dunbar girls track coach Marvin Parker drives their equipment to practice.

Meanwhile, Dunbar boys track coach Kurt Bembridge told the Post his walks through the city with his team is a bonding exercise. Both Parker and Bembridge designed their team's workouts based on their unusual practice locations, and somehow still managed to respectively capture their 16th and ninth city titles this past season.

As Dunbar senior Michael Smith told the Post, “Just imagine if we had our own track.”

That battle began when authorities decided as part of the construction of the new school it was necessary to scrap a $3.7 million Le Monde track facility that was built in 2007 and remained more than functional, according to the Post.

Don't feel too bad for the Dunbar track squads, since the school will unveil a brand new $4 million athletic facility in August, the Post said. The track is modeled after the University of Oregon's Hayward Field and designed in part by Parker.

While it's fair to question the district's spending habits on two "state-of-the-art" facilities in the span of six years, consider this: Parker tells the Post that the Dunbar track program has sent 47 student-athletes to college on athletic or academic scholarships.

The issue of prep programs competing on surfaces not designated for track or field events isn't a new one, and not every team is as lucky as temporarily trackless Dunbar. In Alabama, for example, the Montgomery Advertiser reports a much larger problem.

"The respect for the sport is gone, or not what it used to be, because if it was, then people would take better care of the facilities," Alabama State track coach Ritchie Beene told the paper. "Plus, people would donate more to make sure the sport is up to speed."

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