A track to call their own
By Patrick Dillon
lindsay – It seemed that every team at Lindsay High School has their own place to practice and compete. That was true, except for one: the track and field team. As of Monday, June 5, Lindsay completed a two year project and officially opened an all-weather track on the campus.
“We wanted to thank the board for the installation of the track,” said Lindsay head coach Orlando Benitez. “More people are going to be interested in the program.”
This is the first official facility that the Cardinal track and field team has had since the school covered up the old dirt track at the football field with an all-weather turf five years ago. So when it came to training how did the Cardinals do it?
That is something that Coach Benitez has been struggling with during the two seasons that he has been with the program. Halfway through this season Benitez took over as head coach of the program. Before then he was an assistant.
Long distance runners took to the roads and orange groves in order to train. Short distance runners trained primarily on the all-weather surface at the football field. While it was all-weather the biggest drawback was not the same rubber surface they would compete on. Not to mention there were no turns or distances marked out.
“It’s hard to visualize that straight away when you’re just looking down at a football field,” said Coach Benitez. “Running around the football field is nowhere near running around a track.”
In order to get some feel for the rubber surface they’d be competing on Lindsay reached out to nearby schools. Back in 2016 Exeter Union High School let the Cardinals use their facility a couple times before the start of the season. Yet, when this year’s Cardinal teams grew to a combined 60 kids they were only allowed to train at Exeter before the D-II Meet.
Yet still there was no place for jumpers to practice their full motion. All they could do was practice their take-offs. It wasn’t until the first meet that they were able to practice landing in a pit. That meant the Lindsay athletes were already at least a month behind the other competitors.
That meant using drastic measures. For Lindsay’s top female high jumper Jessica Ceballos, who placed third at the 2017 East Sequoia League Championships with a height of four feet, six inches, she used a trampoline at her house the majority of the season.
Those drastic measures have ended. The grand opening on a project that was supposed to be completed on March 1, but with the bombardment of 48.10 inches rain set the project back. For every day that it rained in Lindsay, that pushed back the opening on average, one week.
The entire facility is not yet finished the tracked was done and the lanes were marked in time for McKaylie Caesar and Victor Cisneros to train on in preparation for the Master Meet. At masters, Cisneros competed in the 1600 Meters and finished with a time of 4:42.92. Caesar finished the 800 Meters with a personal best time of 2:19.97.
“I felt really honored to be the first to run laps around the track,” said Caesar. “This will help a lot when you actually know the distances.”
While Caesar and Cisneros were the first to run on the track, there is still much to be done. Still needing to added are bathrooms and bleachers. Then further down the road the hope is that one day the school down the road the hope is that one day the school will be able to put in a timing system, as well as a scoreboard in order to show results.
When the track is fully completed it is projected to cost upwards of $2.6 million. The funding for the facility was a combination of district general fund reserves, along with a one-time state discretionary fund that all schools in California receive. While the rain pushed back the opening of the track three months the cost remained the same.
There will be a grass infield at the track but as of right now there are no plans on hosting any sporting events on it. The in field will be used for physical educational purposes at the high school. The football and soccer games will still take place at the original stadium at the old Lindsay High School campus.
In the 2018 track and field season Lindsay will host their first East Sequoia League meet in recent history. Eventually, the school will look toward setting up their own invitational track meet. As for Lindsay Unified School District Superintendent Tom Rooney he has high hopes for the future of the track team.
“This is going to be a place where we win championships,” said Rooney. “Yeah, the McFarland story has been good, but watch out, the Lindsay story will be even better.”