by Mike Smith
Last year I lamented the fact that I was feeling like I had seen the last high school meet on the last dirt track to be used for high school competition, as the state of our track had become unusable to host competitions. I had been crusading for some new stone dust for years but it either never made the budget process or was simply forgotten the way things on the back burner often do. But much like a well trained miler heading into that final lap, ready to release the fury their training has developed, we caught some traction and last summer the old track was paved with two inches of ‘the grey stuff” and we were back on track.
This past Friday night, we held our first high school meet on it in two years, and while we had smaller fields than we’ve had in the past, that didn’t diminish the quality of the competition nor the brotherhood and sisterhood of competition. The Pacers of Hinsdale and a small contingent of the Wilton-Lyndeborough Warriors squad, along with our Viking team, made up the evening lineup with a pre prom meeting that got the weekend off to a good start. And much like the newly minted surface of the track, we had an “upgrade” in the weather over our usual mid forties, rain and windy conditions.
Due to the nature of our facility, we host the meet a little different than the traditional meet schedule, contesting only shot put, discus and javelin for the field events. We also don’t do hurdles and run the track events with the 100, 1609 (the mile), Sprint medley relay, 400, 4×200 relay, 800, 200 and the distance medley relay, making this one of the more unique meets of the season. In our non-traditional events teams can mix genders if need be which can often lead to some great camaraderie and if there are sibling’s involved, some fierce bragging rights around the dinner table.
Among the highlights of the meet, three specifically stood out to me. First was the javelin competition, and not so much for great distances thrown, but due to the fact that entire boy squads of Hinsdale and Mascenic took on the event. Eventual winner was Mascenic’s Ryan O’shea, traditionally an 800/1600 meter guy but with the athleticism to be competitive among lots of different events.
The other two highlights were in the miles, the boys mile and the post meet citizen’s mile. Considering we have a non-traditional meet, it seems only natural to run the true mile, and as a general rule, you’re not likely to PR on the dirt track. With that said, my boys squad was determined to send this one sub 5 and were at 73 seconds as they came through the 409 meter mark. Jethro and Connor were able to hold pace, running 4:54 and 4:55 but also in tow was Hinsdale’s Mike Lugo who hadn’t gotten under 5 yet in the 1600. Lugo ran 4:58, being encouraged by the crowd the entire way.
Then in the citizen’s mile, Mascenic alum Avery Traffie edged out Valhalla ace Josiah Conley 4:51 to 4:54 to put five guys sub 5 on the dirt surface. While I didn’t witness the race I knew it was a good one when I was lapped prior to finishing my second last by the duo. There were many other fast times in this one, mine notwithstanding.
Another interesting aside is a conversation I had with the Wilton coach about our newly resurfaced track. Wilton is another school with a dirt track, but there’s has been out of competition for as long as I can remember. I remember playing the first game of soccer on the field inside the track right after it was constructed back in 1985. With how good our track looked to her, she was really interested in what it might take to resurrect the Wilton oval as well. I’d be happy to share the title of the few dirt tracks back in use.
And who knows, maybe this is the start for something I’ve envisioned for a while, a “dirt track” championships. What if all the schools with dirt tracks (wilton and us) along with the schools without tracks were to have a track championship much in the way the Manchester schools do a city championship or the Wilderness league does a league championship? I know many schools prefer the opportunity to pursue faster times on faster surfaces but in reality what kids need is competition over times when it really comes down to it. And that can happen no matter what surface you are on.
I, for one, would love to see it happen.