Groton dedicates Maqubela Track and Field Complex

The Vuyelwa and Temba Maqubela Track and Field Complex at Groton School was formally dedicated on April 27, furthering the current era of inclusion, diversity, and athletics on the Circle. 

The event took place under a perfect spring sky, as student-athletes, faculty, staff, trustees, and donors gathered together to honor the Maqubelas and officially open the new facility.

Groton’s track and field program has been active since 2008, when Hall of Fame cross country coach Bill “Fire” Maguire was first approached by a handful of runners about organizing and entering some meets. It has since become one of Groton’s fastest growing sports, despite having to bus to tracks in Ayer and Harvard for practice, and being unable to host meets on campus.

When Groton’s Strategic Framework 2030 was adopted by the Board of Trustees in November 2021, inclusion, belonging, and student well-being were identified as key pillars. As a sport without barriers, requiring no prior training and no special equipment for the participant, track and field was seen as a great way to enhance those pillars and the track-and-field facility project was started. 

In January 2023, after just four months, fundraising for the new track and playing fields met its goal, adding to Groton School’s ongoing work of inclusion and tuition containment through the GRAIN (GRoton Affordability and INclusion) initiative. 

The Maqubela Track and Field includes an eight-lane track that can accommodate every event in high school competition, including shot put, discus, javelin, long jump, triple jump, high jump, and pole vault. A natural grass soccer/lacrosse field sits in the infield. Construction of the track and field facility broke ground in spring 2023 and was completed earlier this year. 

Speaking at the dedication, Ann Fox ’94, chair of the Board of Trustees’ Buildings and Grounds Committee, thanked the project team of CSL Consulting, CHA Consulting, MJ Cataldo Landscape and Construction, and Tim Dumont, head of Groton’s Buildings and Grounds Department, for their tireless work on what was really three projects in one: the track facility, a new turf field on the lower campus, and a new storage building. 

“I can remember from the time I started on the board over five years ago, Temba expressed his strong desire for a track at Groton,” said Ms. Fox. “The Maqubelas’ fundamental belief in inclusion and belonging guided this project throughout its funding, execution, and completion. 

“When we updated our strategic plan for Groton, we worked to define our guiding principles,” she continued. “These principles shape how we think about everything we do, including with our physical campus. We committed to create a visual and experiential environment that offers everyone—students, faculty, and staff—the opportunity to feel belonging each day across campus and in every activity.” 

Saturday also marked the thirtieth anniversary of South African Freedom Day, the day in 1994 when South Africans voted in their first democratic election and introduced a new constitution. On a day honoring the Maqubelas— refugees from South Africa who were welcomed in America—the confluence was special.

“At 2:15 today, we’ll have a track meet here. But in so many ways, this day moves us all well beyond the physical sport,” said Ms. Fox. “I know the Maqubelas’ battle for inclusion, belonging, and liberty for all was forged long ago into their soul and spirit because I can assure you that there is nothing we do here under their leadership without a conversation around inclusion. Their leadership is both authentic and visionary and I, like many others, am deeply grateful for it.” 

Board of Trustees President Benjamin Pyne ’77, P’12, ’15 thanked his fellow trustees and other donors who made the project possible in just fifteen months.

“There was not even a question. ‘Of course we’re going to support this,’ you said, and that led to an incredibly successful fundraising campaign,” said Mr. Pyne. “Your generosity made today possible. Groton owes all of you a debt of gratitude, so thank you.”

He also saluted the track and field team and its coaches for achieving such success without a place on campus to practice and compete. 

“It is of course, because of your grit, your perseverance, which is what Groton is all about, that you made do with that. And I’m glad today and for the future, you will have a facility like this.”

Mr. Pyne saved his biggest thanks, however, for the Maqubelas. 

“Today my greatest gratitude goes to Temba and Vuyelwa Maqubela. How lucky Groton School was to have you join us on the Circle. We are all grateful for the journey we have been on with you over these past eleven years,” he said. “Your vision and leadership has been transformational for Groton School. You've combined the power of education and excellence with access and inclusion into a vision and practice that is truly inspiration for all of us. We have all been your beneficiaries, and none more importantly than the students who have been here during your tenure.

“As many of you know, today marks the thirtieth anniversary of Freedom Day in South Africa. And to me, there is no better way to acknowledge what you have accomplished by affirming that both of you have created an environment here at Groton School where everyone can flourish, where everyone is included, and where everyone feels that they belong.”

The entire Maqubela family turned out for the event, including Mr. and Mrs. Maqubela’s children and grandchildren. Flanked by a few of the latter, Mr. Maqubela began his remarks by also thanking the donors who made the project possible, beginning with the anonymous donor family who provided the lead gift. 

“They say Groton shows up,” he said. “You showed up so fast, so readily, and we were just amazed. And this was a global effort. Some of the folks who said ‘I’m in’ are here from as far away as Hong Kong and Singapore and Indonesia, with our local people who are here. So to you for making the distance to mark this day, thank you very much for doing that because we wouldn’t be here without a global collaboration from all of you.”

After thanking Ms. Fox and Mr. Pyne, Mr. Maqubela turned his attention to his wife, his “chomam”—South African slang for “best friend”—Mrs. Maqubela. In high school, she was a star runner who went undefeated for five years in the sprints, high jump, and long jump, but was banned from competing against white runners because of apartheid. 

“Without her, this probably would never have happened,” he said. 

Finally, with their teammates behind them, track and field captains Daisy Adinkrah ’24, Inga Bartsch ’24, Jeremy Gall ’24, and Andres Palacios ’24 cut the long red ribbon stretched across the start/finish line and led everyone in a ceremonial lap of the new track. 
As people circled the oval—some jogging, some walking, all smiling—the promise that a sport like track and field can deliver on manifested itself. Trustees, students, faculty, staff of all ages, colors, and backgrounds were all equal, joined together in their effort, aspiration, and joy.