Yukon runners will be back on track next year. Literally.
Construction of a new running track is underway at F.H. Collins Secondary School in Riverdale and will be ready for use sometime next year.
It will replace the track that was ripped up early spring to make way for the new school currently being built on the site. The former track was the only one in the territory, meaning Yukoners have been without one all running season.
School track meets and training sessions for Outside competitions were held on a field, where the new track is being constructed, with lines painted directly onto the grass.
The new track will be much like the former one. It will be a six-lane, 400-metre cinder gravel track, not a rubber track like many had hoped.
“It’s better than nothing,” said Athletics Yukon head coach Don White. “Having said that, take a look at the results the seniors got (at the 55+ Games) when they were practising on the grass track - a track is a track at their level. The big difference is, when we take the young people out to compete at westerns, the Canada Games, anywhere there’s rubber, if they are using track spikes and they have no experience, the issue is muscle damage and strain. One example, we were at the westerns a number of years ago and Knute Johnsgaard was there to do the 5,000-metre and he was crippled for a week afterwards because of the muscle strain that happened.”
“If we have a rubber track here, we can train the kids on it properly so they don’t end up running into those kinds of issues.”
Yukon’s Department of Education, which is putting $828,520 into the track, consulted both Athletics Yukon and the Yukon Soccer Association in planning the project.
With its location on a lower field, between the new school and a forest with power lines along the edge, the oval shape of the track has been elongated. Because of that, there is not enough room to put a regulation-size soccer field within the track.
“The difference is it’s a narrower radius,” said White. “So instead of being 37 metres from the centre out, it’s only 30 metres. So it’s going to be a bit tighter for people to go around the corners.”
“At the end of the day, the dimensions are right as far as the lengths go. Where we end up putting the off-sets for things like the 400, the 800, the start of the 1,500, will have to be adjusted a little bit to suit the track.”
Since it is not rubber and has six lanes, opposed to eight, the track will not suffice if Whitehorse hopes to host a major Games, like the Western Canada Summer Games or the Canada Summer Games. (Whitehorse also doesn’t have enough tennis courts to host either Games.)
“It’s not eight lanes, it’s not rubber, it doesn’t have a steeplechase (water pit), so it doesn’t meet the minimums required to host the westerns,” said White. “So we still end up needing another track somewhere.”
On the bright side, the straightaways will be long enough for the 100-metre dash. There is also potentially room to add onto the facility in the future, like areas for field events such as long jump. However, there are no current plans to do so, said White.
“There is potentially space at the north end - right now it’s just a huge mound of dirt,” said White. “I’m hoping that will get leveled off, and if it does, there should be enough room to put a throw area in for the shot put, the discus and possibly a hammer throw if we can get a cage put in… Long jump, depending on the way the irrigation system is put in. There is a bit of fencing that is beside the existing school that goes along the lower field area. When that gets pulled out, there may be enough space to allow us to put in a long jump pit - at least we’re hoping so.”
Despite not having a track to train on, Yukon athletes posted some fantastic results this season in athletics competitions.
Yukon’s track team won 26 medals at the 2014 Canada 55+ Games last month in Alberta.
Yukon Special Olympians collected four medals in track and field at the 2014 Special Olympics Canada Summer Games in July.
In his first Canadian Masters Outdoor Championships, Yukon MP Ryan Leef won a gold and silver in Toronto earlier in the month.
The Yukon Rush athletics team won seven medals at the annual Jack Brow Memorial Track and Field Meet this past June in Kelowna, B.C.
Yukon Rush’s Dominic Korn won three medals at the Nike High School Grand Prix at the University of Toronto in May.
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