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  • Getting back on track

  • The track at Pittsburg High School’s new track and field complex has finally been laid, and the coaches and athletes are excited to start training on their very own rubber.

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  • The track at Pittsburg High School’s new track and field complex has finally been laid, and the coaches and athletes are excited to start training on their very own rubber.
    The USD 250 School Board approved the project in 2010 because the school’s current track, which was built in 1978, was pitted, cracked and virtually unusable. It also removes relieves the school of the dubious distinction of being the only 5-A school in Kansas without a regulation size track.
    The plan the board originally approved was for $1.9 million and in addition to the track would have added permanent seating and lighting and a press box. The board approved an opted-down version worth about $800 in July of last year.
    The new track has eight lanes and is 400 meters long — regulation size. There are four running long and triple jump pits, two pole vault runways and space for two high jump lanes. There are two shot put rings, a discus ring — a second remains to be built — and even a rubberized javelin runway, which head track coach Gary Ausemus said is a luxury.
    “Most schools we go to don’t have one of those,” Ausemus said.
    The rubberized surface will add spring to the athletes’ steps and increase their speed, too, Ausemus said.
    “We think this is one of the best surfaces we run on.”
    Over the summer workers will add lights, an additional discus ring and re-sod the soccer field which also is now regulation size — the previous field was configured for American football, which typically are arced to help the fields drain. Bleachers will be constructed in a position where the entire complex is visible.
    “Spectators can sit on the bleachers and watch everything that’s going on,” Ausemus said. “That also makes it great for the players and coaches.”
    For years the athletes had to train on the dilapidated asphalt track, sidestepping or leapfrogging the large cracks and the plants sprouting from them. At practice Wednesday afternoon, the seniors on the team said they had no problems seeing the old track disappear.
    “It was a garden,” senior McKenzie Spresser said.
    If they wanted to train for relays or jumps, the team loaded up a bus and drove to Frontenac, St. Mary’s Colgan or Pittsburg State University. Senior Lauren Ouderkirk said she won’t miss that part of practice.
    “We get to spend more time actually working on our events,” Ouderkirk said. “We spent at least an hour warming up, then we had to wait for the bus. Then we’d have to warm up a little there, too.”
    And each year several of the players could count on suffering some sort of injury from running on the rock hard track. The new track, said senior Marcus Striplin, is words apart from its predecessor.
    Page 2 of 2 - “It’s a lot easier on our legs,” Striplin said. “The other track gave us shin splints and other injuries.”
    The positives of saving time and injury are obvious, Ausemus said. The team already achieved at a high level despite the state of the facility. Now, not only will his athletes be able focus more attention on their individual events, he won’t have to downsize their training at the end of the season to reduce the risk of new injuries or of aggravating old ones.
    “The injuries they’d get, you’d just feel sorry for them because they didn’t deserve them,” Ausemus said. “Hopefully now we can have them peaking at the right time.”
    Having a proper athletic complex also has boosted the team’s morale, members said.
    “Track has kind of been a second-class sport, and it feels like they have more confidence in us,” senior Skyler Muff said.
    Striplin agreed.
    “It’s nice to know more people in the community care,” he said.
    The complex also will allow the school to entertain other teams, and Ausemus and his coaches are optimistic about hosting future events.
    “This will allow us to host league and regional meets,” Ausemus said. “We hope a few years down the line to get a really big meet and get some Missouri, Oklahoma and Kansas schools to come here.”
    The track also will be open for community members to run and walk, Ausemus said. But there are two exceptions: No bicycles or pets.

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