Track in dire need of repair

As the ground outside Fort High continues to thaw and spring sports athletes prepare for their respective seasons, just where they will conduct their running drills and practice sessions greatly depends on the condition of the field that day.
The soccer fields have shown improvement over the last few years and do the job, but the quarter-mile track is grown over and patchy—hardly conducive to timing accurate race times for aspiring athletes.
I actually didn’t even notice the track was there until I saw people running on it this past week. From afar, it blends into the soccer field itself.
Contrast that to the track beside West End Elementary in International Falls, and the difference is night and day.
Driving down Third Street in our neighbouring community to the south this past week, I noticed a large contingent of elementary students braving the cold for a track meet.
What most caught my eye, however, was what looked to be a freshly-paved track with newly-painted lines, looking as if it has never once seen a winter.
I’ve spent several winters in Ontario/Manitoba, and there’s no way this could come out crack-free without some consistent upkeep.
The event also had set up several high-jump standards, and professionally-organized events with accurate measurements and time trials.
Clearly kids across the river are given the best opportunities to succeed and improve—and this is just at the elementary level.
How can we expect Muskie track athletes to compete against the province’s best when they aren’t given the necessary tools to succeed?
Sure, track and field is second-fiddle to a good number of team sports that take centre stage here—but winning shouldn’t be the only way to get noticed.
Jeremy Strain’s improbable run to a top-five finish at last year’s all-Ontarios encouraged Fort High to purchase a high jump standard and starting blocks for the runners, but many more small steps will have to be made in order for more of Strain’s peers to rise out of the school ranks to success on the biggest stage.
The track team has been meeting Monday mornings, and is led by a dedicated group of volunteer coaches much like Fort High’s other sports programs, but could stand a funding boost to help take their student-athletes to the next level.
The current set-up obviously would not meet the regulations for hosting track and field events, and maybe there isn’t a demand for that, either. But if they got the ball rolling here, maybe they could host an annual event with their NorWOSSA rivals, Dryden and Kenora, to help kids better prepare for the latter stages of qualifying.
Getting thrown into the fire with their first real races against Thunder Bay’s best is a tough environment to succeed in.
Strain trains beside St. Francis School for the long jump and triple jump—and the site is serviceable—but he hasn’t been able to accurately measure his progress, only knowing where he stands when he gets into live competition at NWOSSAA and, subsequently, OFSAA.
As Ted Brockie wrote in a letter to the editor back on April 22, the residents of Fort Frances also use the track on days and evenings when the high school isn’t in session, and those people would benefit greatly from a track upgrade.
I’m not saying hike taxes to do so, either. Recent funding announcements made by the federal and provincial levels of government suggest there is no better time than now to invest in local recreational projects and the athletes who use them.
Funding is there for the taking—it’s just a matter of making the pitch convincing enough.
Fort Frances isn’t willing to throw its hat into the ring for the title of “Hockeyville,” but hopefully we can at least get the motivation to go after some beneficial funding.

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