By DELLA PREAS
This past weekend, members of the University of Mary Washington track and field team came out to commemorate an event 35 years in the making. The first new track and field facility since 1979 was dedicated and opened up for use by both the team and the surrounding community.
Ken Tyler, the director of athletics at UMW, led the dedication, saying a few words about the new facility. He spoke about how the new track was both safe and competitive with the tracks at other schools, as well as it being aesthetically pleasing, sporting UMW blue and gray. “We do things right at Mary Washington,” he stated proudly.
Tyler then introduced President Troy Paino, who revealed that this was his first project he has dedicated as the President of UMW. Being a big fan of track and field
himself, his excitement for this new addition to the school could not be hidden. He also spoke about the next project to be constructed at the Battlegrounds: a new locker room facility, saving student athletes the hassle of having to Battlegrounds all the way to Goolrick Hall to prepare for a competition.
The next speaker was Stan Soper, the former cross country and track & field coach for UMW. He reminisced about his experience as coach and declared, “There is nothing like a brand new track.” He reminded the team that they should all take pride in the brand new track. Soper was UMW’s coach for 31 years before retiring in 2015.
The current cross country and track & field coach Kunle Lawson shared a few words as well, talking about how much time, planning and hard work went into the creation of this new facility.
When asked what he was looking forward to the most with this new facility, Lawson said, “I am excited for two things. I am glad that [the team] has a place to practice and for us to be able to host meets.” He also spoke about the fact that he believes that this new track will have a positive effect on the team. “I think it’s always easier to perform at home. A lot of fast times are to be expected.”
On the matter of the team’s reaction to the new facility, Lawson said, “It has all been positive. Everyone who is older than a freshman remembers what the old field was like.”
The last speaker of the ceremony was Baily Ratliff, a member of the track and field team. She reminisced about how, when she was a freshman, she had believed that her experience with the team could not get any better, but this new track proved her wrong.
After the speakers finished, it was time to cut the ribbon and to break in the track with a ceremonial first lap. The team lined up on the starting line and waited for the signal. A few seconds later, a canon was fired and they were off. One lap later, the track was open for business.
After cooling down from the lap, Cameron Coats, a freshmen member of the team shared his thoughts on the track. While he may never have had the chance to run on the old track, that did not detract from his excitement for the new track. “The facility is very nice and we are really excited to be able to host meets. We have been using the surrounding area at the Battlegrounds [to practice], but have not been able to run on a track until recently.”
Track and field fans can look forwards to seeing the new track in action in the spring, when the school hosts the CAC Championship this April, among other meets.