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Vote scheduled today on North Hagerstown High track

September 04, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

HAGERSTOWN -- The Washington County Board of Education is scheduled to vote today on whether to build an NCAA-level track at North Hagerstown High School.

Proponents of the college-level track say it would attract NCAA and semi-professional meets to the area, injecting tourism dollars into the local economy.

Others are questioning the value of building an NCAA track, which would cost about $100,000 more than building a high-school level track, according to bids received by Washington County Public Schools.

The school system has received two bids from the same company to rebuild North High's track.

Finley Asphalt & Sealing of Manassas Park, Va., bid $773,630 to build a high school track and $855,194 to build a track that could be approved for NCAA events.

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Finley Asphalt & Sealing was the only company to bid on the project.

The school board is scheduled to vote on whether to accept either bid during Thursday's business meeting.

School officials have said there is not currently a useable running surface at North High.

Craig Paving Inc. built a high-school level track at North High in 2006, but school system officials say they expected a college-level track.

Roger Craig, president of Craig Paving, said his company tried to repair the track but rendered it unusable, The Herald-Mail has reported.

Mike Spinnler, a local running enthusiast who helped raise $50,000 to pay for an NCAA-level track at the school, said Washington County could attract junior college track meets as well as Junior and Senior Olympic-caliber events with such a track.

He said meets would bring thousands of people to the area, many of whom would spend money on hotel rooms, dining and entertainment.

"It would allow (track and field) promoters a venue to contribute to local tourism," Spinnler said.

Wayne Kretzer Jr., who has coached track at Boonsboro, North Hagerstown and Clear Spring High Schools, said events governed by USA Track and Field could be run on a college-level track, which he said would quickly pay for itself in tourism dollars.

"We just want a college-type track in the community," Kretzer said.

Jim Laird, president of Citizens for the Protection of Washington County, said he doubts whether the track would pay for itself and wondered if maintenance on an NCAA-level track will be more expensive.

Laird said he and other CPWC members plan to attend the Board of Education meeting Thursday.

"I just don't think it's worth the money. I think the kids at North High can have a high school track, and we shouldn't put out the extra money to raise it to a higher level," Laird said.

Spinnler and Kretzer said they do not know of any high schools in Maryland that have NCAA-approved tracks.

Repated calls and e-mails to the NCAA were not returned Tuesday or Wednesday.

Edward Sparks, executive director of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA), said he did not know if any high school tracks in Maryland have been built to NCAA standards.

The MPSSAA is an arm of the Maryland Board of Education that governs athletics.

Howard Community College in Columbia, Md., has had an NCAA-approved track for three years, athletic director Diane Schumacher said.

Having the track has allowed the school to host two USA Track and Field events, and Schumacher expects more to come after the school builds grandstands and bathrooms.

"I'm an advocate of the track. It's an attraction, and it's good for the community, too," said Schumacher, who noted that the track is open every evening to the public.

Other schools, such as Mount St. Mary's University, said their NCAA tracks have not drawn any special events.

"It's just used by our kids for practice every day," said Sports Information Director Mark Vandergrift, who noted that the track is "very old."

NCAA tracks have a different slope and surface than high school tracks.

David Britton, track and cross country coach at Urbana High School in Frederick County, said the most noticeable difference between an NCAA-level track and a high school track is the surface.

He said NCAA-level tracks have "poured" surfaces that are much smoother than the "blown" surfaces used on high school tracks.

"Every one I've been on is quite nice," said Britton, who noted that NCAA-level tracks generally yield faster times.

He said his athletes have not experienced problems switching between high school and college-level tracks.

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