The Inter-high Championship annual spring track and field meet was officially established in 1896, making it one of the oldest and longest running track meets in the world. It was originally the city track & field championship for the four Washington D.C. public high schools: Central, Eastern, Western, and Business. Technical School joined the rivalry in 1902. The meet continues today under the banner of the District of Columbia Interscholastic Athletic Association (DCIAA).|
According to an 1896 Washington Post article, there was at least one prior similar contest in which city schools competed in a less formal track & field meet. According to that article, boys from Central High School pushed for the adoption of an annual city championship track meet under the guidance of Professor Harry English. The 1896 Inter-high Championship Meet adopted governing rules including one rule that the event
thereafter be contested annually and that a championship cup be awarded.
Georgetown College, later called Georgetown University, hosted the Inter-high Championship Meet for the first seven years from 1896 to 1902. Some of the early Georgetown athletic staffers credited for elevating the meet include: Robert Dick Douglass, E.A. Plater, M.J. Thompson, and William "Bill" Foley.
Foley was first credited as the coach of Central High School in 1904. By the 1906-1907 school year, he was credited as the "physical director" [coach] of all city schools. Within a year, Foley was credited as the athletic director of all Washington High Schools. Interspersed during much of that time, he also was credited as the track coach at Georgetown University. By 1914, he was exclusively credited as the track coach for Central High School. Foley was ultimately credited for coaching Central High School for 35 years upon his retirement in 1939 and was frequently lauded by the Washington Post as the greatest track coach in Washington History.
Central was dominant in the early years of the meet, winning every team title from 1896 through 1912. [Side note: I was unable to find results from the 1909 meet, but clues from articles in subsequent year signify that the meet took place and Central maintained its winning streak.]
Western High School won its first title in 1913 while the Washington Post reported: "the O Streeters [Central] had been weakened considerably through the loss of the star performers from last year's team. But the fatal blow only developed last week, when announcement was made that nine of the dependables had failed to pass advisory marks, and for this reason will be unable to represent the school."
Central won the meet again from 1914 through 1917, but Central controversially skipped the 1918 Inter-high Championship in favor of a meet at the Tome Prep School in Port Deposit, Maryland. "It was intimated that some action will be taken in regard to Central," the Washington Post reported.
Technical School won its first Inter-high title in Central's absence in 1918. Central won 26 of the first 28 Inter-high titles, but Tech started a dynasty of its own, winning every meet from 1924 to 1928. Eastern won its first Inter-high title in 1929, and repeated in 1930 and 1931.
Central and Tech mostly swapped victories from 1932 through 1942 while new schools Woodrow Wilson, Anacostia, and Calvin Coolidge entered the meet.
Wilson High School, which first appeared in the Inter-high Championship Meet in 1938, won nine out of twelve championships between 1943 and 1954.
During the early 1950's and at least for part of the 1940's, there was a so-called Negro Inter-high Championship Track and Field Meet for the colored city high schools: Cardozo, Dunbar, Armstrong, and Phelps. Media coverage of sporting events for the colored schools was sparse compared to that of the white schools; therefore, I was unable to find records or results for most of those meets, despite searching vigorously via old newspaper articles.
Central and Cardozo were separate schools up until 1950, but in 1950, Cardozo moved into the Central High School building. That move was prior to desegregation and the "Central High School" name ceased to exist at that time.
In May 1954, Brown versus the Board of Education deemed the "separate but equal" doctrine unconstitutional, which set the legal precedent for desegregation.
Amid the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, the Interhigh track championships became desegregated in 1955. Cardozo, Armstrong, Dunbar, and Phelps, which had previously been relegated to the Negro Championship Meet, finished 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 8th out of 11 teams in the new combined format.
In 1971, the Interhigh addressed the other injustice of the era when it hosted the inaugural city track and field championship meet for high school girls. This took place more than one year before Title IX became public law in June 1972.
During the 1991-1992 school year, the District of Columbia Interscholastic Athletic Association shed its traditional name, the "Inter-high," and became commonly known as the DCIAA.