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Track team not competing on a level playing surface

Erick Studenicka

When the final scores are tallied later this month at the Nevada AAA track and field championships, don’t be surprised if the Tahoe-Truckee High School girls’ team comes within four inches of a state title. The four-inch deficit won’t come in the form of a short high jump or discus throw. Instead, Truckee’s shortcoming will come in the form of the essential four-inch cement track curb the Wolverines have been forced to train without this season.

Without a curb on their track, Truckee athletes can only guess how far they’re running in practice and they have no way to judge where the exchange zones for the relay are located. The lack of a curb also adds to the risk of injury, as there is no true separation between the track’s running surface and the soccer field.

“If we could get a curb, it would be a good start,” said Wolverine coach Doug Roberts. “It would be nice to also have a shot put ring and a long jump pit, but at this time, a curb would be our No. 1 priority. With a curb, we would know how far we’re actually running and we would be able to practice our relay events.”

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Even with a curb, Truckee’s track and field problems would be a long way from being solved, as the Wolverines are lacking proper training facilities in nearly every field event. Truckee has no long or triple jump pit, no discus or shot put ring and no pole vault standards. Without the proper field-event facilities, Roberts said the Wolverines cannot be competitive at the state meet.

“We can compete with the other high schools in the state in the running events, but teams such as Spring Creek will beat us every time at state because they’re strong in the field events,” Roberts said. “I don’t blame the kids – who would be motivated to jump when there is no pit or throw when there is no ring. Asking our varsity athletes to practice on this track is the equivalent of asking the varsity basketball team to practice on an outdoor playground.”

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Discussion surrounding improvement to the track is nothing new. Just last summer, Truckee resident Cindy Pope, whose son competes for Sierra Mountain Middle School, was able to organize a series of track committee meetings which included interested parties from the school district, Truckee-Donner Recreation and Park District and Tahoe Forest Hospital.

The committee made some progress, getting some rough estimates on the costs of improvements and planning fund-raising strategies. But as winter – and a local election – approached, nothing was ever finalized and no improvements were made.

“I’d like to say the track committee is still going, but without Coach Shaffer (who is taking this season off) it’s tough to get the rest of the group together,” Pope said.

Pope said one huge question that remains unanswered is whether the school district will maintain any improvements to the track if they are made.

“What’s the use of a donation if the school is not going to keep it up,” she said.

Pope also said that the committee discovered that a substantial amount of money would be required just to prepare the track for improvements

“We went into the committee thinking we could raise money for a cinder track and curb,” Pope said. “But then we learned we’d also have to raise money for drainage and dirt (to fill and level the surface) because the drainage is not right in the area near the freeway.”

Roberts remains optimistic that a curb could be installed without much drainage work.

“The drainage isn’t that big of a deal,” Roberts said. “I think we could probably get away with putting a couple of drains under the track and some holes in the curb.”

Pope said she would be disappointed if the track doesn’t see some improvement before the current crop of 70 junior high track athletes – the largest amount of athletes participating in any sport at SMMS – reaches high school.

“The junior high track team is a great group of kids who are doing well.” she said. “It would be a shame to see all of the developing athletes drop track in high school because of the facility.”

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In the end, of course, money will determine where, when and how improvements are made to the track. Roberts estimates that the cost of a curb will be about $10,000.

“Every time I’ve talked to the school, they say there is ‘no money’ for the track,” Roberts said.

The Truckee Rotary Club has expressed an interest in helping the track team, but it doesn’t have the budget to solely fund the improvements.

“We would like to see community-wide involvement to upgrade the track,” said Truckee Rotary Club president Brent Collinson. “Money for the track is not in the budget this year, but there may be some money available in the future if we’re able to budget it.”

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Excuses for not improving the track that I’ve heard such as “no one is interested in track” or “the track team is no good” are no longer valid in my book – not after witnessing 70 junior highers practicing each afternoon this season and seeing the Wolverine girls’ team win the prestigious Reed Invitational despite their beleaguered practice facility. It would be difficult to imagine the Wolverine football team without Surprise Stadium or the Truckee swimming team without Community Pool, yet we continue to expect the local track teams to compete on the state level without even a minimal practice facility. It’s time for the community to band together and work on improvements to the track and not leave the young Truckee athletes four inches short.


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