Oct 19 2005
On the road for three years

By Nathan Whalen
The Oak Harbor High School track team last hosted a meet three years ago. Since then, they’ve spent subsequent seasons traveling to all competitions.
Like Memorial Stadium, which can’t be used for post-season football or soccer play, the track’s condition prevents the school from hosting home meets.
“It’s tough when the kids know they’re not going to have any home meets,” said Jay Turner, co-head coach of the track team.
He said the track needs a cushion on the surface to protect competitors’ shins, knees and ankles. He added the facilities for the field events are substandard and also need upgrades.
“Our track hasn’t had any fix ups in a while. It’s like running on concrete,” said senior Olimar Hunt, who competes in several races, relays and field events for the track team. “It would be better to run on a surface where we wouldn’t get shin splints after practice.”
He said the cushion on the track is needed to give the spikes something to grab during races.
Entering his third year and final year competing on the track team, Hunt has not enjoyed a home meet his entire career.
Hunt said teammates can’t use spikes on the track.
Coach Turner added that runners often practice on the grass instead of the track. The opposition, of course, practices on the surface it competes on, giving it an advantage.
The track team would see an improvement in its facilities if voters approved a $6.5 million bond on Nov. 8. That bond would fund construction of a new stadium with a track and field that would be built at the high school. The bond needs to pass by a 60 percent supermajority
Bob Smithson, school district athletic director, said the proposed track will be similar to the one at North Whidbey Middle School. The new facility would include space for the field events.
The addition of the track would bring a fun event that has been missing in town.
“A track meet is exciting,” Smithson said. “It’s one of the great events that a high school puts on.”
In addition to the fans not having the convenience of seeing their sons and daughters compete in Oak Harbor, the school district is feeling the pinch in gas costs for having to transport the team off the island for every meet.
The proposed track would be the second one in the Oak Harbor School District. Workers recently replaced the track at North Whidbey Middle School.
Smithson said the school district needs two tracks — one for the high school track program and one for the middle school track program.
While the new track at North Whidbey Middle School provides a new running surface, there aren’t any facilities for field events. Those were cut as a cost-saving move. Middle school track teams don’t participate in such field events as pole vault and javelin.
Smithson said he doesn’t yet know how the field events would be configured at the high school. That would be known when the new project is designed.
By having the track surround the football field, it helps provide a safer facility for football games. There is more space for players to maneuver when they go out of bounds. One of the knocks against Memorial Stadium is the fence near one of the end zones that could prove hazardous to players.
Should voters approve the bond, the athletic facility would be ready for contests in the fall of 2007. Taxpayers would pay an estimated 19 cents per $1,000 of assessed value on their property. In 2007, the school district’s bond rate is going to drop by 17 cents leaving a two cent net increase.
The track and field isn’t the only change people will see in the school district’s athletic facilities.
Plans also call for renovation of the tennis courts adjacent to the gymnasium.
“The courts are deteriorating and they aren’t getting any better,” said tennis coach Horace Mells.
He said there is often standing water on the courts after it rains. That, coupled with some divots, makes it a safety hazard for the players.
Mells added that the majority of the schools in the WesCo conference play on facilities that house eight courts, more than the current six the Oak Harbor team plays on.
The fields surrounding the school will also see an upgrade. Plans call for renovating the practice fields that several sports teams use. That includes the baseball field and the field where the soccer team currently practices.

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