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Spinnler gets the word out to get on track

February 25, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

Mike Spinnler is a firm believer that hard work and a little sweat will go a long way to building a winner.

Spinnler has been around that track before, first as a successful runner, then as a coach and as the director of the JFK 50 Mile, the oldest ultramarathon in the country.

Now, he is passing himself the baton for the anchor leg of his trek - the major fundraiser to help enhance an athletic facility to bring national and world-class athletes to Washington County, Maryland.

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Spinnler came out of the blocks on Thursday with more than half of the $50,000 needed to transform the track facility at North Hagerstown High's Mike Callas Stadium complex from another high school oval into a venue which could host future USA Track & Field events.

Spinnler was joined by 20 coaches and runners from Washington and Frederick counties who are committed in the drive to help upgrade the complex which is now under construction without adding any expenses for the North High committee.

"We got in late in the game, but to raise $25,000 in two weeks is amazing," Spinnler said. "We found out about this late, but the committee has been gracious in letting us try. What they wanted to see was the track and field community's commitment. We showed them the money and they realize the value (a USATF track) would have."

The $25,500 total was the culmination of a two-week e-mail campaign started by Spinnler to raise funds. He approached passionate track and field participants and fans to help upgrade the facility.

He presented a typewritten sheet filled with names of contributors to the stadium committee, which included local standouts and former local standouts who used local track programs to move on to bigger things in their careers.

Included in the list was a $1,500 pledge from the Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, noting such a facility could boost the local economy and tourism when the facility draws large-scale track events.

"When I used to coach at the junior college, there were not many venues out there and not that many bids to host these meets," said Spinnler. "Coaches were looking around asking where they were going to go next.

"There are a lot of junior meets, which would draw families to the area like soccer does, and junior college meets that could be hosted. It's been 20 years since we have had a college meet here because we haven't had the facility."

Weekend tournaments, like the one annually held by the Hagerstown Soccer Club, routinely draw teams from the East Coast to compete, which translates to used hotel rooms and restaurant space.

The $50,000 price tag - which must be guaranteed to the stadium committee by March 1 - is to improve an already strong concept and would be done with private funding.

The Callas track wouldn't have to be made larger, nor will it take up any more space on North's campus. Instead, the running community's contribution would be used to make some alterations to enhance the high school facility to reach the USATF level, such as:

· Widening the apron for the high jump area from 32 feet to 42 feet.

· Adding a runway in a second direction for the long jump to compensate for wind changes.

· Adding a steeplechase lane to the track.

· Adding areas for weight events, specifically the hammer throw and javelin.

The steeplechase is one of the major requirements because it is a USATF-sanctioned event. That addition alone could enhance chances of drawing international competitors.

Spinnler said he used former Olympic track coach Jack Griffin, of Frederick, Md., as his guide through the process.

"Back in the 1960s, Jack helped Frederick make Thomas Johnson High's facility into a USATF facility," Spinnler said of Griffin, who attended the meeting. "In 1972, they hosted the Women's Olympic Trials that sent the U.S. team to the Games in Munich."

Griffin said the Western Maryland area conjures some fond memories for track organizers, pointing to a national cross country event that was held in Beaver Creek some years ago as an example.

"That event went over well," Griffin said. "It was run well and was well organized. Track officials have long memories."

Spinnler said Hagerstown's proximity to the Baltimore-Washington area could help make Western Maryland attractive to major track and college events.

"There are a lot of national hub airports near here," Spinnler said. "People can get cheap tickets to fly in, rent a car for a 70-mile drive over and get here easily to compete."

The drive continues to raise the rest of the $50,000 to put the USATF upgrade on the fast track in the stadium, which is scheduled to open for the 2006-07 school year.

"I'm hoping this will get the word out," Spinnler said. "The committee has been very receptive to it. We have made the turn. ... We are on our way home."

For information or to make a donation, contact Spinnler at 301-739-7004 or e-mail him at spinnlerm@msn.com.

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