Homer Alaska - Sports

Story last updated at 6:41 PM on Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Homer's rough track forces athletes afield

By Lindsay Johnson
Staff Writer


Photographer: Lindsay Johnson, Homer News

Homer High School track worst in the district, said Dave Spence, KPBSD director of planning and operations.department.

Homer's ski hills are tough, its gym floor is big, but its track is just too rough for the competition to handle.

There will be no home track and field meets for the Mariners this season because there is not a sanctioned facility in town.

Dave Spence, director of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District planning and operations department said the track is in the worst shape of any in the district.

The track, built in 1985 with the existing high school, has holes, heaves, broken surfaces and water pools on it.

"It's really rutted. I've seen people trip and fall on it. When you see other tracks, ours just hasn't been maintained," said local runner Andy Haas, who uses the track weekly when it's snow-free.

The last high school track and field event in Homer High School was in 2009, but Chris Perk, then athletic director, said even that was iffy.

"Only four or five teams would even come and I was nervous because there are so many cracks," he said.

The only substantial maintenance on the track was a patch job after a nearby creek flooded the field years ago.

At this point, Spence won't know how much is needed to bring it up to standards until the top surface is removed. Regardless of the extent of damage, the fix will be expensive, and the school district has lumped the project with three others to keep costs down.

It's been on Homer's top five priority maintenance list for more than 10 years, but is only now moving into a viable position on the district agenda.

Districtwide, track resurfacing, repair and replacements are third on the school district's list of capital improvement projects for FY 13.

Spence said the district is applying for $3.25 million in state grants that would fund work on Kenai and Soldotna high school tracks, as well as Homer High and Middle.

According to Spence, all of those tracks are in bad shape, though Homer's are the worst. Seward and Nikiski have the district's best tracks.

Homer Head Track Coach Bill Steyer said the local school teams are not the only groups that lose with rough tracks.

"All the coaches on the Kenai Peninsula always express their disappointment that our track is not sanctioned because they'd love to come to Homer for track meets," Steyer said.

He called the track a neglected recreational and economic community resource.

Without counting the potential income from meets, the track's value may be counted in other ways: The dollars that Relay for Life raises for cancer support at the nearly-24-hour June event; the improved competitiveness of the group of adults who do speed training workouts on it; and the overall health of people who walk around it when trails are muddy.

"Financially it will pay off in the long run and it's just a huge health and fitness component for our community," Perk said.

Unless the money materializes another way, track fans will have to wait a few years before their own can compete at home. The Ms race at Skyview on Saturday.