(By Brandon Hansen/Chewelah Independent)
For those that ran on the dirt track of Snyder Field, for those that never saw a home track meet, this renovation probably seems like a long time coming.
This Friday when the Chewelah Cougars take on Deer Park in their first home football game of the season, they’ll be doing so on a new sod surface, raised several feet to better drain, and surrounded by the school district’s brand new all-weather track.
“It’s going to be used by all our kids,” Chewelah Schools superintendent Rick Linehan said. “They’ll be using it for PE class along with our sports teams.”
Linehan also pointed out that community members can also use the track.
“We had a 70-year old man come onto the track while we are out here and say how grateful he was to be able to walk on something that didn’t hurt his knees.”
The new track replaced the previous dirt variation that was constructed in 1964 and ready for the 1965 season. Before the 1960s, Chewelah’s “track” was a half-mile path used for horse racing when the town used to host a community fair. That older track went around the current facility. Years back, there also used to be horse stables by the field.
As the years wore on and with the advent of all-weather tracks, Snyder Field became unable to host home track meets with their outdated track. At least six ballot efforts for track improvements failed since 1996 until Chewelah passed a $1.1 million levy in 2016 and construction began towards the end of the year to tear up and raise Snyder Field by AM Landshaper.
The field was raised several feet and drainage was put in so now water shouldn’t settle on the field and track but drain back into Peye Creek.
The new track at Snyder Field is a quantum leap in the facilities that were in place before. Two new shot put pits which face opposite directions and are much safer, a long jump and triple jump pit with an actual runway instead of just laid out mats, a javelin runway that will improve the safety of that event, a pole vault pit that hasn’t been an option for Cougar athletes in years. and a discus pit have been added. The high jump area has been expanded and the all-weather track will serve as the surface instead of mats over asphalt. The school district plans to put in another long jump pit to better host large events but first wants to see where water drains to make sure they put it in the right spot, Linehan said.
For the Chewelah Track and Field team, practicing on the old cinder track meant that steps for relays were off and so were strides in the hurdles. This didn’t stop Lilly Kirry from winning a state championship in the hurdles last year and Maggie Cobb from placing several times in the hurdles. However, the new facility will only improve the Cougar track team.
“So more athletes can safely participate in track and field than we could accommodate in the past,” Chewelah Track and Field coach Shirley Baker said. “We can also start training earlier as we don’t have to worry about the frost heave or a muddy track. And we have new hurdles which won’t cause injuries because they are old and splintered. All in all, we will be able to supply a safer more accessible venue in which our athletes can train and actually compete.”
It also means that the community will now have the option to host events and athletes can now train more often and be more passionate about their events. Before the facility update there was offseason options for athletes in baseball, basketball, and volleyball but not track. Offering a summer track program could change this.
“The remodeled venue will allow us to host track meets which will draw contestants and spectators to the businesses in our community,” Baker said. “We plan to start a Track club affiliated with USA Track & Field which will offer age leveled competition for youth in our community.”
Since times and marks speak for themselves in track and field, any athlete can get noticed regardless of the school size.
“For us, though, we want to promote track as an option for athletes to use their strength, quickness and agility to help them pay for college without depending on playing on a traveling team,” Baker said. “Track results are published on a website called Athletic.net which can be accessed by any college coach in the nation. You don’t have to live in a big city to get noticed.”
Baker’s hope is athletes will consider track a way to achieve individual success while contributing to the larger track team.
Three sets of bleachers will used for the vistors side during football games and then moved around to various throwing pits for spectators.
Handicap access and a pathway around the scoreboard to the bleachers have been added to be ADA complient and a ADA porta potty will also be placed at the field, along with a porta potty on the north side. Hansen Logging also rocked the expanded parking lot on the south end.
Two 15×125 track protector tarps have been purchased to cover each sideline for teams and fans.
The track itself is one of the thickest the school district could have been purchased, as they plan for the surface’s longevity. Still the school district is asking people to use the two outside tracks when they walk or run on the track. The track is always open for community members but since the inner tracks will be used most for track meets, using the outside tracks will minimize wear and tear. No spikes or cleats are allowed on the track and pets are also asked to be kept off the track unless its a service animal.
“It’s going to be a nice grand opening,” Linehan said.