FWBHS closer to getting rubber track

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“We’re probably at about $130,000 now, including the money being pledged. Pretty close to $150,000 is needed to resurface the track.”

TONY JUDNICH @Tonyjnwfdn

FORT WALTON BEACH — The cracked and dinged asphalt track at Fort Walton Beach High School could be resurfaced with a highly anticipated rubber coating by the start of the next track and field season in February, local businessman Jeff Harris said Monday.

Harris is co-owner of the Run With It running shoes and apparel store, which has raised much of the funding needed for the rubber track via store-sponsored running events.

“We’re right at about $100,000, which has been raised over the past four years,” he said.

Harris said FWBHS Principal Jeff Spolski plans to present the plan for the rubber track to the Okaloosa County School Board at its Nov. 13 meeting.

The roughly $100,000 was generated by Run With It’s past two Lucky Leprechaun 5K/10K events, its last four pre-Halloween Wicked Triple Fun Weekend events and another race that took place a few years ago. Harris said the money is given to the tax-exempt Northwest Florida Track Club.

Also, “This year, we got a strong (FWBHS) team-parent organization,” Harris said. “I think they have raised more than $10,000 just this year, and some businesses have pledged to put in money, too.”

For example, restaurateur and Okaloosa County School Board member Dewey Destin has pledged to contribute $10,000, said Lissette Fields, who is a coach for the track and field program at FWBHS.

The money that has been raised and pledged so far will pay for resurfacing the track with a rubber surface, Harris said.

Overall, “We’re probably at about $130,000 now, including the money being pledged,” Harris said. “Pretty close to $150,000 is needed to resurface the track.”

Fields said that because of the poor shape of the existing track, about 95 percent of the track and field program’s meets take place elsewhere.

“People just don’t want to run on an asphalt track,” she said. “We have only one meet per season at FWBHS.”

Because of the softer surface, athletes who practice and compete on rubber tracks have fewer injuries than those who use asphalt ones, Fields and Harris said. They said besides benefiting athletes, the planned rubber track will benefit the local economy because FWBHS will be able to host more meets.

“We lose a lot of money by going out of town for meets,” which generate money for non-local hotels, restaurants and other businesses, Fields said.

Harris said each track and field team has about 100 members.

“They pay to get into the track meet, and that money goes to your local school,” said Harris, who added that the FWBHS track and field program currently “spends about $15,000 per year to travel and stay overnight.”

With the planned rubber track, “Our premise would be to have different schools serve as hosts of track meets here” at FWBHS, Fields said.

Niceville High School’s rubber track, which began being used this past track season, does not host meets because it is not a legal 400-meter track and it has only five lanes, she said.

NHS track and field/cross country coach Jamie LaFollette, however, said that Niceville’s track is six lanes and will be hosting meets this school year.

“It is not 400 meters but that does not prevent us from hosting meets,” LaFollette said.

The tracks at Choctawhatchee and Crestview high schools are both 440-yard tracks, Fields said.

“We don’t do yards anymore,” she said. At FWBHS, “We have the only legal eight-lane, 400-meter track. Ours is the most sensible track. Eventually, we’ll work on getting the Choctaw and Crestview tracks rubberized.”