by Jim Boyle
It has been a long time coming, but Zimmerman High School students can finally see the starting line for a track around its varsity football field.
The Elk River Area School District will soon go out for bids for a nine-lane track at Zimmerman High School. Officials got the go-ahead from the Elk River Area School Board on Monday night.
“Our students and staff are extremely excited about getting a new track,” said Jaime Hilyar, Zimmerman High School’s athletics and activities director.
The high school opened nine years ago in the fall of 2003. The track is expected to be ready for the start of school in fall of 2012.
Hilyar said the Zimmerman track coaches have had to be extremely creative when planning practices without a track.
Athletes have often trained on the grass fields. The Elk River high school coaches have also been very accommodating by allowing the use of their facilities; however, the cost of transporting kids to and from Elk River has been a challenge, Hilyar said.
Hilyar has been proud of his kids and coaches.
He says despite the challenges the program has faced, it has developed into a strong program with many students qualifying for the state tournament. The Thunder track program currently has 120 boys and girls participating in track.
The addition of a track will eliminate several disadvantages, and allow the program to begin competing in the pole vaulting competitions.
“Our students deserve to compete on their home turf,” Hilyar said. “And our parents also deserve a break from traveling to other towns watching their children compete.”
The track will also feature nine lanes, making it easier to host big meets.
“I know that anytime we can host a meet it means a lot to our small community,” Hilyar said. “When we host events, we bring people into Zimmerman. Our local businesses do a lot to support our students and this is a small way we can reciprocate the favor.”
As the school races toward the starting line, it is pushing for the nine-lane track, and they have the support of the District 728 administration and School Board.
Nine lanes is what track athletes compete on during the state tournament. It also allows the host school to be more efficient in running a meet, not having to divide up and run separate heats.
“This allows the meet to finish earlier to get students and families home at a decent time,” Hilyar said.
Organizers of section meets seek out nine-lane tracks.
“We would welcome the chance to host section meets,” Hilyar said. “This would give us options to generate some revenue for our programs and bring people into our community.
“Students would love to qualify for the state tournament in front of their home crowd (if we could host the section meet at home).”
The district expects the track to cost about $700,000, and it will reportedly only cost about $12,000 to have the additional lane.
There are, however, some soil corrections that are expected to be needed because of some top soil found in recent soil boring. It’s possible the top soil was placed there when the school was built, according to Randy Anderson, the executive director for business services.
The bituminous track should be ready about mid-August, with final preparation expected before the start of the first scheduled sporting event.
A contingency plan, however, is being developed. Administrators said it was more important to finish the track properly than to rush it for the start of the fall sports season.
Hilyar said having a track will give opportunities to the physical education, Community Education and elementary programs.
“We appreciate the patience and flexibility of students, staff, other schools in the district and our conference with our unique situation of having inadequate facilities,” he added.