Washington brings success to girls track


William Randall

Girls track head coach Josh Washington laughs with an athlete at the 2022 Midtown Opener. Washington credits his success as coach to the relationships he’s built with his athletes.

William Randall

The Knights girls track team has been trending upwards for the past few years, mainly from the presence of head coach and Class of 2007 alumnus Josh Washington.

Washington began coaching for Midtown in 2015 under boys track head coach Delbert Ellerton. In 2019, Washington became the girls head coach.

Ellerton took notice of Washington’s interest and passion for the sport.

“Josh is the only athlete I took as a coach with me to a professional coaches clinic,” Ellerton said. “I could tell he always had an interest in learning the sport; he had a great respect for it.”

Senior 100 meter hurdler and 4x 100 meter relay runner Aaliyah Rapping met Washington when she was in eighth grade, and according to her, she’s built a strong athlete-coach relationship with him.

“I’ve been with him throughout my four years of high school. We really got closer when I got into ninth grade,” Rapping said. “He’s a really good coach. He’s one of those coaches that has a really close relationship with the team. He dedicates a lot of his time to building close relationships with us in order to not only be an authority figure, but a mentor figure that we can come to about our problems outside of track, which really made our team like a family.”

Washington emphasizes an inclusive team environment. While performance on the track is important, Washington said the content of a runner’s character also heavily influences the team.

“I pride myself on creating the type of team anyone can be a part of,” Washington said. “It’s not about who’s the fastest, who can jump the highest, who can throw the farthest; we care more about who you are as a person. When you care about people as student athletes first, and then what they can do on the track, people feel that and want to be a part of it.”

Sophomore 200 meter sprinter and 300 meter hurdler Frankie Palmer believes the relationships Washington has built with his athletes has helped her and other athletes dial in the little aspects of their training.

“Coach Josh makes sure he builds a bond with us, makes sure we’re improving, eating right,” Palmer said. “He’s especially making sure we all succeed.”

Palmer sees the difference in Washington’s coaching style compared to other coaches.

“I love it,” Palmer said. “Our team is extremely family oriented, and he’s really close with us. Usually, coaches are strictly business, but he makes practice fun.”

Washington credits much of his coaching style to past mentors.

“When I decided I wanted to teach and coach, I always wanted to be like my favorite teacher,” Washington said. “One of my mentors in track was also my middle school coach. When I looked at what other coaches do, all I could see was a close bond they had with their team. Obviously, practice makes a difference, and training makes a difference, but it’s those relationships that make the biggest difference.”

While relationship building is critical to Washington and his coaching, his style of training has been an important factor in the team’s improvement.

“He really focuses on where your strengths and weaknesses are,” Rapping said. “For me personally, he records me every practice and sends me film of other hurdlers. We’ve spent these last four years really dialing down on where I need to grow. His attention to detail with every runner has benefited us extremely.”

In Washington’s time as head coach, the program has grown exponentially from what the team was when he inherited it. From a low number of participants to now a full team with eyes on winning a state championship, the growth of girls track has been significant.

“When I became the head coach, we had a total of seven girls on the roster,” Washington said. Now, we have 35-40 girls on the roster; we’ve broken eight school records, won four track meets, placed at three more, finished 10th at state last year, the highest we’ve placed in over a decade.”

Ellerton notes what Washington has done to bring much-needed steadiness to the team.

“He’s brought a lot of stability to that team,” Ellerton said. “The coach who passed away in 2014, Randy Reed, coached from 1986 up until his death, after he passed, there was a lot of instability with the girls team. Josh has been the most stable coach since coach Reed.”

Rapping recounts a time where all of the extensive work she and Washington put in came to fruition.

“I ran the hurdles last year in the regional meet,” Rapping said. “Before that, he had sent in a time of 17.28 into our team group chat and said, ‘Aaliyah, by the end of the season, you’re running this.’ At the meet, I ran that exact time. Not only did he predict my time, we both trusted the process that we had been working so hard on. I trust the training he has given me, and he trusted me to go out and perform, and the times continued to drop after that.”

Washington recounts his first win as head coach and what it meant to him.

“Twenty nineteen was the first track meet I won as a coach,” Washington said. “For me, it was confirmation I was doing something right, confirmation for the girls that they had a good coach. That was just a huge milestone for us.”