By DAVID GREEN
Fayette athletes from the mid-1970s and earlier will remember that the running track of the day didn’t resemble a perfect oval of a normal track.
It was closer to the shape of a ball field, recalls Leo Wixom who served as track and field coach for the school.
“It wasn’t much of a track,” he said.
There was a straight section following the first-base line to the outfield, then a curve around the outfield, then a straight-away back along third base, and a sharp curve in back of home plate.
It was a little difficult to run a 100-yard dash race when there was no 100-yard straight-away, he said.
In 1974, when Robert Nyce was president of the Fayette park board, a plan was submitted to the Army Corps of Engineers office Bryan for the construction of new park facilities.
The Army Corps was consulted because the rerouting of Spring Creek was an important first step. At that time, recalls Dee Ferguson who was a park board member at the time, the creek veered farther to the north and plans called for a new channel directly east.
This would allow space for construction of a regulation quarter-mile running track. The master plan also included a new ball diamond, shelter house, picnic area, tennis courts and a soccer field inside the track.
Construction got underway in 1977 on the new six-lane track. It was excavated to a depth of six inches and filled with a fine gravel rather than the cinders used on many area tracks.
“It was a top-of-the-line track,” Wixom said. “Everybody really like it.”
The track served the school and community for a couple of decades until the varsity team stopped using it in the late 1990s. Flooding problems damaged a portion of the track and hard-surface tracks were becoming prevalent at many area schools.
“Before it started flooding in the southeast corner, we had some really good junior high invitationals,” Wixom said. “But once it flooded and washed out, we couldn’t get a good base established.”
The track is now used only for practices and no meets are scheduled in Fayette.
Former park board member Tom Spiess recalls that when the Army Corps formed a new channel for the stream, riprap was place on the banks, but much of that has been covered with sediment through the years.
A five-inch rain in early July sent flood water onto the track once again and further damaged the southeast area.
Time for repair
Fayette mayor Anita Van Zile is leading an effort to repair the village-owned track.
“We need to get the track back into a condition that can be useful to the community and the track teams. The village has a responsibility to keep it in good shape.”
She’s set a work day on Sept. 6 and plans to line up specific tasks and equipment so volunteers can arrive and get a lot accomplished in a day.
She intends to remove encroaching grass and take the track back to its original 18-foot width. In addition, gravel needs to be brought in and raked onto certain areas and the flooding problem needs to be examined.
She knows that many people are looking forward to a new track at the new school, but the cost is prohibitive.
Leslie Fruchey of the Fayette Athletic Boosters said the group has a track fund, but only a small fraction of the estimated $250,000 to $300,000 cost is in the savings account.
The Boosters are working with the school to establish plans for athletic facilities. The goal is to establish new fields and a track in phases as funding are available. The state funds that paid for 80 percent of the new school cost cannot be used for athletic facilities.
“We need to take care of what we’ve got,” Van Zile said, knowing that new facilities aren’t going to be available soon.
She sees the track renovation effort as important to both school and community and she’s hoping to see representatives from both parties willing to help out Sept. 6.