Crumbling Track At Alexander Puts Athletes, Entire Program At Risk

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ALBANY, Ohio (WOUB) — Fourteen years after its construction, the running track at Alexander High School is still occupied by student athletes. But the coat of black rubber is showing its age; in fact, it has been for years.

Athletes and parents spoke out at Wednesday’s school board meeting.  They say it’s time for an upgrade.

“Our track is undeniably unsafe for athletes to properly practice on, causing athletes to not be at their full potential when it comes to the day of the meet,” said Brianna Wallace, an Alexander graduate.

The rubber coating on the track at Alexander is badly deteriorated, posing risks for student athletes and threatening the future of the track program.
The rubber coating on the track at Alexander is badly deteriorated, posing risks for student athletes and threatening the future of the track program. [Dylan Theisen | WOUB]
Breaks and cracks plague the entire Alexander track. During the season, standing water, mud and even ice make their homes in holes along the runway. 

So what are students doing to train? According to head coach Nate Schaller, these athletes have no other option.

“I had regional qualifiers this year, for sprinters and distance, all of which had injuries. … It makes it hard. It’s hard on the sprinters, it’s hard on the distance kids, our field events we can barely practice really.”

Schaller said that ahead of major meets, the team actually keeps their athletes off the track. 

Cracks and holes in the track were patched in 2012, but to no avail. In the years since, no teams have traveled to Alexander for track meets. 

So how did things get this bad?

A recent land survey revealed a major issue below the surface: The track is built on a slope.

“From the start of the 110 (meter hurdles) to the finish line is 11 and a half inches that you’re running uphill,” said Russ Norris, a track parent and volunteer. “We have to go all the way down to below the base and start again.”

With two lanes out of commission on a track already too small for Ohio athletic regulations, Alexander has become the only school in the Tri-Valley Conference unable to host meets.

“It’s not a want, it’s a need,” Schaller said. “We’ve needed it for a while and we’ve kind of made do, but now we’re to the point where we’re past the make do and we’ve got to get something figured out.”

Norris says if action is not taken soon, the future of Alexander’s track program is at stake.

“Well if you don’t have a place to practice, if you don’t have a place to do things safely, what are you going to be able to put on for these kids? To just go show up to run track meets? That’s not an option.”

A committee of parents and coaches from all sports is working to present the board with different options for an updated track, along with cost estimates. 

But that’s the biggest hurdle to be cleared — funding.

Schaller said he doubts a levy would succeed. Instead, the committee is looking into fundraising, volunteer labor and other cost-cutting opportunities. 

“It’s gonna ruffle feathers no matter how we do it,” Schaller said. “We’re talking about spending money for athletics which is always a tough thing. … We’re going to try to get donations to cover some. There’s no way we’ll be able to cover it all by any means.” 

For the athletic boosters, this is more than an investment in a single program. They want to ensure the board pursues a plan that services every team — as well as the greater school district.

“At this point, we’re really looking for community input,” Norris said. “We want that discussion to happen. We want to hear what they have to say. Is it just this site? What other improvements can we make? How else can it impact other students in other programs? That’s what we’re looking for right now.”

Alexander school board members will receive the project proposal at their next meeting August 11.

In the meantime, Norris is encouraging members to visit the track and see the damage for themselves.