Los Angeles youth show the power of the run
The Los Angeles High School Romans track team embodies the idea that the run can change a day, a week, a life.
Track and field makes a comeback at LA High
The LA High School Romans were once a powerhouse in track and field, but over the years some of the facilities at the oldest public high school Los Angeles have fallen into disrepair. Now, the team is ready to run a new path. The Romans have been selected to receive a 2022 Brooks Booster Club Grant, and its coach, Premier Peavy, has been named the Brooks 2022 Inspiring Track and Field Coach of the Year.
Revitalizing the track program at LA High will provide access and opportunity the student-athletes at one of Los Angeles’ most under resourced schools.
“We serve a specific population. A strong sports program becomes like a family for students. Sport becomes an outlet — it helps with social and emotional well-being. It’s also a positive for enrollment. Families think about enrolling their children into schools with strong sports programs, and having a successful, well-respected track team can inspire plenty of good in our community,” said Marguerette Gladden, LA High’s principal.
New gear and plenty of cheer
A recent Brooks Booster Club grant is making it easier for the Romans to bring running back to youth at LA High.
“This grant opens so many doors for us. It gives our kids a chance to see that there’s such a large running community out there. Kids often don't run after high school because they don't understand that there’s a greater running community that can support them. Running is a lifelong sport, and it’s important that these kids know that,” said LA High alum and track and field coach Premier Peavey.
The Brooks Booster Club grant helps outfit the Romans with high-quality equipment.
“We’re trying to create a system where we can provide shoes for a lot of the runners who don’t have shoes, clothes, and running gear. So many of the students don’t have the right gear. They have often run in the wrong shoes. Having the proper equipment helps so much,” explained Coach Peavey.
Grace Gonzales and Andrea Guerra, members of Angel City Elite, Brooks’ all-Latinx team of distance runners, had the opportunity to deliver the grant to LA High School’s track and field team. The pro runners loved surprising the team.
“The disbelief and pure joy were so heartwarming and grounding to witness and share with them. Once the students got sized up they were saying how fast they felt and how nice the pieces of gear fit. We got to participate in some relays with them in their new gear and it was fun to feel the high school vibe again. The team had great leadership with lots of positive energy. They know how to have fun and work hard, which is great to be around,” Grace Gonzales said.
Coach Peavey also expressed amazement. “I felt so blessed that we could provide something more for the kids. I think it showed our students that people are pulling for them. Our team captain did a dance when she heard about it. The kids were just so happy.”
Both Grace and Andrea went to high schools that didn’t have abundant facilities or resources, so being able connect with the LA High Romans had a strong effect on them.
“Looking back to high school, I remember there was a lack of resources. We couldn’t have certain races because we didn’t have the funds to make quality experiences happen. Reflecting on what the Brooks Booster Club grants provide — it’s such a valuable resource to have when it comes to race day,” Andrea said.
Gear, shoes, and a track to run on are essentials for youth runners, but even more important are positive, caring adults who serve as coaches and mentors. The LA High Romans have that in spades.
“Premier is one of many individuals who has attended LA high and who has come back to give their time. We have a culture here of students returning after they graduate so they can give back to the community. It’s a continuation of the excellence they see when they’re here. We all want to build a program that students deserve,” said Iheanyichukwu Nkwocha, LA High’s assistant principal.
For Coach Peavey, the best words of wisdom for grownups looking to lead youth is to keep believing in kids.
“Be the voice of reason. So many coaches get burnt out, but it’s so important to keep being a motivator. Provide a light for those students. Keep an open door. Having that ability to connect with the students is so important. Just be positive,” he said.
The Brooks Booster Club grants
Through this application-based program, schools receive training shoes, racing shoes, uniforms, and warm-up apparel for a 30-person team. Each recipient also receives $2,000 to help with expenses, including pay-to-play fees, meet entries, transportation costs, etc.
The Brooks Booster Club goal is to open doorways for young runners who otherwise might not be able to participate in the sport we love so much. We want to ensure that running remains accessible, so high schoolers can enjoy lasting and impactful experiences with the sport.
Photos by Bryan Garcia.