Uneven playing field: Harding University HS feels neglected by CMS

Updated: Apr. 21, 2021 at 10:22 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - By its own account, Harding University High School, in west Charlotte, doesn’t have what other high schools in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District.

The school does have the No. 1 track and field team in the country.

However, the school is raising questions about athletic field problems, along with inequities across the district.

With all the rain this spring, drainage issues at Harding University High have created an uneven track.

Simply put, those at Harding University High feel like CMS is neglecting them and putting them at a disadvantage.

Akala Garrett-Collins is the best at what she does, currently top in the country as a sophomore in the 400-meter hurdles.

However, it’s a hurdle at her own high school that no one can seem to beat.

“Kids will come and look and say, ‘it doesn’t look up to par, we want to go somewhere else,” Garrett-Collins said. “You can do the same thing that people do at other schools over here.”

WBTV first profiled Harding University High’s field problems back in 2018.

Over two years ago, there was a need for a fieldhouse for football, press box upgrades and drainage issues on the field causing bubbles on the track.

Garrett-Collins’ mother happens to be her high school coach.

“I’ve seen so many tracks the best, some of the worst but this by far has been one of the worst conditions on a track and we have elite runners running on it,” LaSonja Collinsa said.

It hasn’t gotten better. Those conditions, track coach LaSonja Collins says, led to patches on the track that had to be filled.

Those patches are now uneven and, she the coach says, is a concern for injuries.

“With those bubbles being cut out, they patched it in with material that does not match a regular track,” Collins said. “Now, you’re running, getting speed and you may collapse in it because it doesn’t match the regular surface of a track.”

On Wednesday night, the Harding University High Principal Doctor Eric Ward gave WBTV a statement saying: “Field conditions have been a frustration point. The athletic booster club is now involved. The superintendent is aware and has escalated the matter to building services. There have been some fixes along the way but clearly more needs to happen.”

Instead of a band-aid approach, the coach wants what other schools in the district have.

“We’re part of the same system and we want to be included in everything that’s being upgraded,” Collins said. “I feel like it’s fair to our kids.”

They are hoping for a permanent fix.

“We should be able to get the same things, be up to par, get a new track, stadium because we got top athletes here and we deserve it,” Garrett-Collins said. “But because of where we’re placed at, people don’t think we deserve it. It’s hard to watch that going around you, and you see other people getting this and we’re not.”

WBTV reached out to CMS multiple times for comment but has not received a response.

Check out Harding’s booster club efforts here.

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