Bodysuits Speed, Spice Up Racers

Cougar Runners' Controversial Lycrauniforms Are Worn With Shorts

January 30, 1991|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,Staff writer

While watching the high school sports segment of the evening news one night, Barbara Macmillan was pleasantly surprised by something she saw.

There was her 16-year-old daughter, Janine, sprinting to victory in a sleek gold and baby-blue Lycra bodysuit during the 3,200-meter relay event of the National Guard indoor track meet.

"She was handing off to one of the other girls, and they all looked really nice," said Macmillan, whose daughter is a co-captain and member of Chesapeake High indoor track team. "They were all wearing shorts over the uniforms, but Janine used to be a gymnast, so I'm used to seeing her compete in leotards."

That night, Janine and her three teammates made a fashion statement that could help revolutionize track on the high school level.

"It's that (Olympian Florence Griffith-Joyner) thing -- the one-piece suit," said Barbara Macmillan, whofavors the look. "I think it's a morale booster and a treat for the girls. A lot of colleges are going that way, and I think the girls feel special in them. I like them much better than the baggy shorts andT-shirts they used to have."

Chesapeake coach John Gray, who paid $1,600 for 25 uniforms, came up with the idea last fall after watching the Louisiana State University women's team win the national titlein them.

The uniform is called "the Tousse" after its creator, Cheryl Toussaint-Eason, a silver medalist as a half-miler in the 1972 Olympics. Its aerodynamic design, in theory, cuts down on wind resistance and allows the wearer to run faster.

It fits snugly and shrinks to approximately 12 to 18 inches long when not being worn.

"I brought in a few samples and asked the girls what they liked. They said they wanted to get them," said Gray, who finally, in his sixth year,realized a goal to replace the old uniforms. "They come in three sizes -- small, medium and large -- and they're form-fitting. They're not indecent, in fact they're less revealing than regular shorts. They're also attractive."

He added that there has been a strong push among high school coaches nationally toward legalizing the one-piece look -- for both boys and girls.

Senior Christine Bridgman, 17, and her teammates sold 60-cent candy bars to help pay for the 25 uniforms.

"We all liked them. They're comfortable and they look nice when we run," said Bridgman, the other co-captain.

"Of course, they felt a little weird because they're much less than we're used to wearing. My brother laughed when he first saw them, but my mother said she thought they looked cute."

National rules allow for the shorts-jersey, briefs-jersey combination on the high school level but prohibit wearing the bodysuit without shorts.

The National Federation of State High School Athletic Associations may legalize the uniforms at itsJune meeting.

"The federation is going to address the rule and could possibly amend it," said Mike Whitworth, the state's track chairman and an assistant to Gray at Chesapeake High. "If it's been a calm year as far as complaints about the uniforms, they might amend it. But quite honestly, I don't know how it will go.

"There were a few requests to legalize the uniform last year, but change comes very slowly in sports like (track), and not wearing shorts with this type of uniform is a major change. I don't think the uniform has a negative effect on performance and I don't see it's such a big deal. But we are in a sport that mixes girls and boys, so I think (the national federation) showed good prudence by saying let's wait a year and see."

Even with shorts, the Cougars' new outfits have been raising a few eyebrows -- some favorable and some unfavorable.

"They have a certainflair and style about them," Glen Burnie coach Aaron Walker said. "It's a possibility that I might be interested in. Of course I'd have to find out from the girls what their feelings are."

North County coach Ed Harte said, "Sure they'll cut down wind resistance. The tighter it is around the body, the better it is for speed. But even if therules changed tomorrow, my gut feeling is that we wouldn't wear them. We have enough problems with violations because of jewelry and things like that. If you let the kids wear what they want, it'll be a fashion show."

The topic became an interesting point of debate in front of Chesapeake High at a practice Monday where a few members of theschool's track team considered the legalization of the uniform.

"A uniform is a uniform," said senior Brian Garalde, 17, a pole vaulter.

"They have them in swimming and gymnastics. I think the girls should be allowed to wear them. Hey, it's the '90s."

Gray agrees somewhat with Garalde.

"There's really no difference between these and what they use in gymnastics or wrestling," he said. "It's just that they're new to track. But we'd like to be trendsetters, especially the girls' 2-mile team. They've won two National Guard meets and a state title. They want to be patterned after the best. They want to look like Olympians."

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