No one in 1973 imagined that the start-up Judge Charles W. Woodward Relays track meet would endure as a signature meet in Maryland track & field for the next forty-five years. But Greg Dunston had an inkling.
No one in 1987 imagined that the Woodward Relays would survive under that same name with nearly the identical format after Woodward High School closed its doors. But Greg Dunston had an inkling.
No one in the thirty years since Woodward High School closed its doors imagined that the Woodward Relays could once again be contested at Woodward High School, but Greg Dunston has an inkling.
Bethesdamagazine.com and other media outlets have reported that MCPS leaders have met with parents to discuss the re-opening of Woodward High School which closed thirty years ago in 1987. By all accounts, if it happens at all, it would not happen before Tilden Middle School moved out of the building in 2020 plus an additional few years of renovations.
Greg Dunston beamed at the thought of it.
"2021 I heard," said Dunston. "If it happens in 2021, that's only four years away so maybe we got a shot. Yeah, maybe we go back there and be able to have it again." (According to the Bethesda Magazine, 2021 would be premature)
Dunston chuckled the entire time that he spoke about returning to Woodward High School.
Unlike several high schools in Montgomery County, which have been bulldozed to the ground and built entirely anew over the last few decades, the brick and mortar of the old Woodward High School remains intact and occupied by the student and teacher population of Tilden Middle School. Tilden is one of the few middle schools in the area with a full 400-meter track. Technically, the Woodward Relays could have been hosted at Tilden Middle School, but it probably would not have carried the same nostalgia as returning to Woodward High School.
"Just keeping it going is what I'm trying to do," said Dunston on this 45th anniversary, "and so maybe when the Woodward Relays gets to 50, maybe we'll be back over at Woodward."
Dunston started the meet when he was a young man in 1973. He was really only five years out of high school himself, and he was not yet dreaming of starting a legacy that would span five decades. He just wanted to start a relay meet because that is what they did in western Pennsylvania where he was from.
"It's changed a lot but I'm glad I did it," said Dunston [editor's note: computers and timing have changed a lot, but the meet format has not]. "I got to a point where I just decided 'Hey we can do this and we can keep it going.' And we moved it to all these different schools..."
In the 1986-1987 school year, the Montgomery Journal reported all year long on the "final-this" and the "final-that" for Woodward High School. Every event was the last hoorah at Woodward: it was the last football game, the last homecoming, and the last prom. One journalist from the Montgomery Journal went so far as to write a final farewell tribute to the fan-favorite Woodward Relays track meet, even in the face of Dunston telling the reporter that the meet would continue.
The meet continued beyond 1987, as Dunston promised, even if it meant hosting it at Montgomery College, Richard Montgomery High School, Walter Johnson High School, and Georgetown Prep School. It was important to Dunston to keep the meet's name, in part to keep the memory of Woodward High School alive.
The Woodward Relays in 2012 had a ceremony to acknowledge the 40th anniversary. This year's 45th anniversary meet sold commemorative t-shirts, but the meet had no grand observation. Dunston of course knew that this was number 45, but his eyes are already locked-in on the big number 50.
It would be so fitting if number 50 (or 51) came full circle back to Woodward High School where it all began. Dunston cannot see the future, but you have to wonder if maybe he always had a little inkling of the way everything would work out.
Montgomery Journal article used with permission granted by The Washington Newspaper Publishing Co. LLC d/b/a MediaDC. See Page 1 | Page 2