Once a Dorsey Don, always a Dorsey Don.
Since Dorsey High opened in 1937 in South Los Angeles, it has built a proud, powerful group of Black alumni who became lawyers, businessmen, politicians and sports figures, among others.
So understand the disappointment of many this school year that there were no football, basketball, baseball, soccer or softball teams for which to root. COVID-19 restrictions and obstacles caused havoc in the community. While some high schools got their sports programs underway in March, one of the signature programs in the Los Angeles Unified School District went dormant — except for a group of dedicated track and field athletes and coaches.
"We're the only ones, and we're proud," track coach Steve Lang said.
When the City Section holds its track and field championships at Birmingham High on Wednesday and Thursday, the Dorsey Dons' green and white uniform will reappear for the only time in a City Section event during the 2020-21 school year. Six boys will compete Wednesday and five girls Thursday.
"It means a lot. Not everybody was given this privilege," said Jahieme Arnold, who graduated last week.
The track team has competed in a couple of dual meets this spring. Sometimes the athletes ended up in races by themselves. Their major accomplishment was taking responsibility for completing eligibility requirements, getting tested every week for COVID-19, and having their parents turn in the paperwork needed to compete. It might seem like a minor inconvenience, but at many LAUSD schools it was a roadblock never passed.
"They just didn't want to be bothered," Arnold said of classmates deciding not to undergo weekly testing.
Brothers Markus and Mykale Mundy stuck it out and now will get to run Wednesday. Mykale, a sophomore, could make an impact in the 200. Markus, a graduate, runs the 400. Mykale said when the basketball team did not have a season, his father ordered him to join the track team.
"I didn't want to run track," he said, "but I was forced to."
Apparently father knows best because Mykale said, "Now I like it."
Twin sisters Mikayla and Mikiya Gardner said they are excited to be representing Dorsey in the City finals but would like more help. "As soon as we go back to school, we need to recruit as many as we can," Mikayla said.
Senior Noah Shelby said friends just didn't want to be put through the required protocols to participate in sports.
"It was stressful for me," he said.
Problems with a testing site at Audubon Middle School caused him to miss senior activities.
"I started and didn't want to quit," he said. "It was worth it. I'm one of the few at the school who gets to represent Dorsey."
Lang and his three assistant coaches often remind their athletes about the Dorsey tradition. Seventeen times Dorsey was the City Section boys team champion under former coach Ralph Tilley. There were track athletes the likes of Beno Bryant, David Gettis, Angela Rolfe and Latonya Dawkins, who defeated Olympian Denean Howard in a memorable 1982 City girls' 100-meter final.
When the Mundy brothers run for Dorsey this week, "I get to continue a legacy they've been doing for so long," Markus said.
Arnold said he had to convince his mother to let him join the team. She was worried about health and safety concerns with COVID-19.
"I told her how bad I wanted it," he said. "I come to practice 100% every day and give it my all."
Mykale Mundy acknowledges that his father might have made the right decision to have him join the track team.
"Sometimes he's right," he said.
These 11 teenagers are the last ones standing at Dorsey High and most deserving to wear the green and white Dons jersey. The alumni should be proud.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.