Runners lobby to get repairs on track
Anna Kniceley is campaigning to see improvements made to the track used by sprinters, hurdlers and distance runners at King George High School—even though she won’t be around to enjoy them.
Kniceley is a senior who gave up the chance to run track this spring. She and fellow runners already have made presentations to the King George Board of Supervisors and School Board about the track that “is deteriorating awfully fast”—and she plans to continue those efforts.
“I love my track team, and I love my track family,” she said. “We deserve so much more.”
Fellow senior Brittany Williams added that she and Kniceley also want to practice what they’ve been taught.
“We’ve always been told to leave things better than you found them,” Williams said.
The runners showed slides to county officials that illustrate how the rubberized all-weather track is eroding from constant use.
It’s pocked with water holes and worn down to the concrete in places, which can cause runners to fall, the students said.
Coaches regularly have to repaint lines because of the wear, particularly on inside lanes which seem to get the most use.
The track is behind the King George Middle School, and it is used by adults walking and pushing strollers as well as teams practicing relays and long-distance races.
School Board Chairman Mike Rose was coaching a recreational league football team at a nearby field last fall when he had to chase away kids who were riding bikes on the track.
Kristen Hornbaker, a junior, said she’s even seen a child riding a motorized dirt bike on the track.
Signs announce that those uses aren’t allowed, but the examples show the popularity of the community track.
“We get that, and that’s all fine and well,” said Alex Fisher, athletic director at King George High School. “It just means that the track is constantly used all the time.”
‘IT’S JUST SO GROSS’
The track also lacks adequate facilities, such as bathrooms, bleachers and concession stands. Friends and family often don’t attend meets held at the school because they have to stand, Hornbaker said, and the track and fields behind the middle school are served by one portable toilet.
“It doesn’t even lock, and it’s rarely serviced, and it’s really quite disgusting,” Kniceley told the supervisors in February. “We have to beg to go into the middle school because it’s just so gross.”
Rose, the School Board chairman, said he and the supervisors discussed the track last month during a work session. His board will include the track in its capital improvement plan, which is being put together this month.
However, he’s not sure when the improvements might be done or what shape they would take.
He sees two options: resurfacing the existing track and adding facilities behind the middle school similar to what the county has at its complex next to Sealston Elementary School, or building a new track behind the football stadium and next to the practice fields at the high school.
But, Rose cautioned, county schools have other pressing needs, including a leaky roof at the middle school.
He also said the county’s three elementary schools are getting crowded. They serve kindergarten through sixth grade, and King George may need to expand the current middle school or use the old middle school to house sixth-graders, Rose said.
Supervisors will have to do the same kind of balancing act to determine which needs are funded first, Supervisor Dale Sisson Jr. told the runners in February.
Still, he and his cohorts, as well as School Board members, praised the students for presenting their case.
“You young ladies articulated your issue very well,” Supervisor Chairman Joe Grzeika told them. “What you presented was professional and to the point.”
Supervisor Jim Howard hoped the board could find the money to provide a better track.
“What we don’t want is a good athlete to hurt herself, just running and doing the sport she loves,” Howard said.
Rose said the school system is “blessed to have some great athletes, and track is one of our strongest groups.”
The girls’ track team has won the district title four years in a row, and the boys’ team earned the indoor district title this year, Fisher said. Girls earned a regional title in 2011, and boys claimed six regional crowns in the 1970s.
“All of our state champions have come from the track program, except one basketball team and one individual swimmer,” Rose said.
Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425
STAYING ON TRACK
Anna Kniceley and other runners working to improve the track say they will circulate a petition among residents. They want to demonstrate that it’s not just a few girls and boys on the track team who want a better facility, “It’s the community behind us,” she said.
She and fellow team members want to bring about changes to honor their coach Rudy Pekarek, who is retiring. Other track coaches are Jeremy Jack, Matthew Page, Loralee Chavon–Garrett and Jeff Smith. Cathy Binder is the cross country coach.
Kniceley also will continue to attend county meetings to present her case.
“It’s always easy to talk about something when you’re passionate about it,” she said.
Then she smiled when she said she would make future appearances. “We don’t want to give all our secrets away the first time we talk to them,” she said.