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Clayton principals ran track, now run schools

Drewry, White honored by DeKalb track club

Photo by Jim Massara
Clayton County middle school administrators Lonnie White and Monique Drewry say their track experience makes them better principals.

Photo by Jim Massara Clayton County middle school administrators Lonnie White and Monique Drewry say their track experience makes them better principals.

— Don’t even think of telling Forest Park Middle School principal Monique Drewry that you can’t get from one class to another at her school.

“I just say ‘I can run a mile in five minutes,’” Drewry said. “’I know you can get down this 100-meter hall.’”

Drewry and Sequoyah Middle School Principal Lonnie White are runners through and through. It was no surprise then when the two Clayton County school administrators were inducted into the DeKalb County Express Track Club Hall of Fame. The two were honored by the nationally recognized club at an Aug. 11 ceremony.

Drewry was a high school state champion who competed at the University of North Carolina. She went on to be come an ACC champion and was invited to compete in the 1996 Olympic trials in the 800 meters.

White attended Albany State University, where he was a Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference champion and an NCAA All-American in the long jump and relay events. He later started the Running Panthers Track Club of Clayton County. Its members, all Clayton County students, produced several national champions in track and field in the Amateur Athletic Union competition.

While neither currently coaches, both got their start coaching while teaching, Drewry in Atlanta and White in Clayton County. White served as head track coach at Riverdale High School, where the Raiders won numerous honors, including the only girls’ state track and field championship in Clayton County history.

They knew each other back then but never imagined their paths would cross again in Clayton County schools. Today, both run their own middle schools — and say their time on the track has made them better principals.

“I know it’s what gotten me to where I am, because in our jobs you have to be disciplined to lead the new initiatives that are rolling out in our school district,” White said. “You can’t be someone that’s lazy.”

Drewry said that running did more than teach her how to work hard. It taught her how to think.

“People say that track is always just a circle or an oval,” she said. “No, there’s strategy about it.”

Drewry’s personal strategy always involved being an educator, with running and the scholarship she earned from it being a means to earning the degree she needed.

White was similarly motivated. Both parents were educators. Dad ran, too.

“I tried to do everything my father did,” White said. “My father ran track, so it just made sense.”

Both agreed that running strengthened the discipline necessary to succeed academically. And they both took pride in insisting that their student-athletes keep their grades up.

“Not all coaches think like that,” Drewry said, who added that she sometimes butted heads with people who had more relaxed standards. “I know a lot of coaches who are in it to save kids. They’re saving them from the streets, but they’re not equipping them with the life skills to help them beyond the their program.”

White said he never had a kid who was ineligible. “That was always clear first,” he said. “You had to do your work, period.”

Watching the London Olympics last week was must-see TV for both Drewry and White, but neither watched much track. Drewry said “just saw athleticism all around” and was nearly brought to tears by what she saw.

“I was just amazed by the things I couldn’t do,” she said.

White, on the other hand, watched with the rest of the world as Gabby Douglas performed acrobatic miracles. “My daughter looked at me and at that and just knew, there was something she could do,” White said with a smile. “I probably watched more gymnastics than I watched track and field.”