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Coach says track is a hazard

June 16, 1997

By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

Staff Writer

CLEAR SPRING - Gaping cracks run the length of the Clear Spring High School track, crossing the faint painted lines defining its eight lanes.

In spots, the track's blacktop surface has worn down to the base. In other places, painted distance markers have prevented wear, leaving them a coin's width above the surrounding surface.

"It's pretty much laughable," said track coach Scott Horning. "In my opinion, it's the worst in the state."

School system officials have been promising the school a new track for years, said Horning, who sees the temporary patching efforts as sorely inadequate.

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Horning said he worries about the safety of the middle and high school students who use the track for physical education class as well as track and field events.

"You're not supposed to have to watch your feet when you're racing somebody," said Horning, who blames the track's condition for an accident during track practice last year and a lot of minor injuries.

But the expensive project keeps getting cut from the budget, he said.

Based on the reason he got from facilities management director Dennis McGee - who told him he couldn't justify the project for such a small program - Horning said he feels his school isn't being given the priority it should.

With about 40 members, the school's track program is about average size, he said.

"If Washington County has seven high schools, then all the high schools have basic requirements," Horning said. "It doesn't matter what that high school has - 500 people or 1,200 people - they all need certain things to make them functional, to make it equitable."

School system officials agree the track needs to be redone.

However, they disagree that the track's condition poses any safety threat.

"I don't think the track is unsafe," said Eugene "Yogi" Martin, who supervises the school system's athletic and physical education programs. "If I did, I would put a fence around it and lock it up."

Martin said he believes the accident Horning alluded to wasn't related to the track's condition.

The track project has been put in the budget for the past two years, Martin said.

But the project - estimated to cost about $100,000 - has to be considered in context against all the school system's needs when making cuts, he said.

Overall, Clear Spring High isn't getting shortchanged, said Martin, who said the small school has gotten its fair share of the capital improvement projects budget.

New lights were installed in the school's gym last year, he said. Student safety made that project a priority.

Two years ago, the school got brand-new tennis courts, he said.

Martin said he plans to put the track project in next year's budget and hopes it makes it through the cuts.

"Clear Spring's will be the next track done when we have money to do it," Martin said.

When you're dealing with a limited amount of money for maintenance projects, you have to make hard decisions about which ones get attention first, said McGee, who admits the track program's size enters into the equation.

"I do not have $165,000 to put in a track for 30 kids," he said.

There was a lot more money in the budget when Williamsport and Smithsburg high schools had their tracks redone a few years ago, McGee said.

Track projects aren't eligible for state matching funds, which the school system uses to stretch its less-than-adequate facilities budget, he said.

Clear Spring High Principal John Peckyno said that while he'd like to see the track updated and resurfaced, he understands the budgetary constraints and thinks his school is getting equitable treatment.

Peckyno said he doesn't think the track is unsafe.

"It is usable and the kids are doing well," he said.

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