July 20, 2019 — Students in the Siuslaw School District will be greeted with a newly completed track at the Hans Petersen Memorial field, made possible by a large estate bequest from an anonymous benefactor.
“For any school, especially of our size, to have a surface of this quality is really awesome,” Siuslaw High School Athletic Director and Track and Field head coach Chris Johnson said. “It’s really great for our kids. Our community is so supportive of our schools and athletics. We couldn’t be more pleased for the opportunity to train and run on this thing.”
When the track was first installed 20 years ago, the plan was to resurface the simple polyurethane service. Instead of replacing the track, a structural spray would be placed on top of it. While some resurface work had been done eight years ago, the dream of a state-of-the-art track never materialized, while other facilities, such as the gym, were getting routine maintenance.
“If you look at the gymnasium, that’s something they re-do all the time. It’s not just for volleyball and basketball. There’s also gymnastics and PE in there. But when you’re doing a track resurface, it gets really expensive,” Johnson explained. “The way school districts are, the roof goes bad or you need something that’s more pressing, the track gets pushed along.”
And as the project got pushed along, the track had fallen into disrepair. Some areas were buckling, while in other areas the surface was falling off the side. Rainwater was seeping down to the asphalt base.
“There were places where the grade had slipped, things had shifted,” Johnson said. “Sooner or later, it would have been impossible to contest a track meet on a track that has big gaps and the rubber is becoming delaminated from the underlayer of asphalt.”
It was getting to a point where an entire replacement was needed, which would have been financially prohibitive for the cash-strapped district. However, an estate bequest of $165,653 from an anonymous benefactor was given to the district for the sports program. Considering the condition of the track, and the track and field program fulfills Title IX requirements, the district asked the estate if the project was something they were interested in funding.
“To throw [the donation] to one sport, that could be something where the family might not be happy about it,” Johnson said, but the family believed it was what their father would want and gave the blessing for the project to go forward.
“The family who donated it is unbelievable, what a great gesture,” Johnson said. “Without that generosity, it possibly could have been done, but it wouldn’t have been the track that we’re fortunate enough to have now.”
The Siuslaw Athletic Booster Club gave $50,000 to the project, and the district provided $23,916 from its maintenance budget.
The new surface of the track is called a BSS 300, a high-level track that is softer, to make running easier on the legs, and flat — good for competition days.
“We sealed it with two millimeters of this red sealant,” Johnson said. “And they came back, and they put down five meters of a polyurethane base, and the next part they would put these little granules, and just shoveled it on the track. And then they go by and it embeds in the surface. And they go around and took the extra particulate off. And then that’s the surface we have. It’s probably the best track surfacing product in the country.”
Aside from the new track helping out the multiple programs that use it, from general PE classes to the track and field teams of the middle and high schools, the program has the most participation of any sport in the district.
That follows national trends, where the national Federation of State High School Associations ranked track and field as having the highest school participants of any sports, with 1,088,0689 students annually signing up for the outdoor iteration of the sport — compared to 1,039,079 for 11-player football.
The major reason both national and local numbers are high is because the sport is co-ed. Nationally, girl participants outweigh the boys by over 100,000 participants, compared to football which only listed 2,2237 girls participating in the 2017-2018 school year.
Another reason for the ranking lies in the variety of different activities that exist in track.
“In the U.S., most kids grew up with the opportunity to play baseball or softball,” Johnson said. “Obviously, it’s a national pastime, and I’m a huge baseball fan. But I think baseball is a sport where if you can’t play, you know. If you can’t hit and you can’t field, it’s not the sport for you. But track and field really offers an opportunity for everybody, no matter what. There’s something that will be in their wheelhouse, whether it’s throwing or jumping, sprinting or hurdling, you can be a distance runner.
“There’s something you can do to participate, and we don’t cut. So, everybody who comes out for the team gets a chance to participate.”
Locally, Track Town USA has also pushed the sport into the forefront of grade-school athletics.
“Most of the school on the coast are pretty competitive for track and field,” Johnson said. “Obviously, having the University of Oregon has an impact. This is the hotbed of the country for track and field, and it’s been that way in Oregon since the 50s. There was Prefontaine, and obviously Nike’s support for track and field has been big. So, I think that’s part of its popularity locally.”
And Johnson believes that having a new track will show just how dedicated Siuslaw School District is to track and field, and the entire athletic department.
“I hope the people in the community understand that it needed to happen and that to be able to make it work to the level and quality we have now, it’s great for everybody,” Johnson said. “Our kids our going to walk out there and just be amazed. We’re going to go to track meets somewhere else and they’re going to know that their home facility is one of the best facilities in the state of Oregon.
“That gives us some pride. And I think it’s the same way with all of our facilities.”