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Lebanon Track Without a Home

  • From left, Hanover's Zoe Onyango, Lebanon's Claudia Simione, and Hartford's Eleanor Hinckley have a close finish in the 100-meter dash at the CVC North track and field qualifier in Hanover, N.H.,on May 8, 2018. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Lebanon head coach Kevin Lozeau checks the time during the CVC North track and field qualifier in Hanover, N.H., on May 8, 2018. Waiting for their next race are from left, Edward Bieszczad, Zach Petrin, and Cody Davis. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Hanover — The storied Lebanon High track and field team hasn’t had a home meet in several years, resulting in less overall competition, decreased team morale and other issues.

Once home to consecutive NHIAA championship meets and in rotation for events such as the Connecticut Valley Conference North qualifiers — which took place on Tuesday at Hanover — Lebanon’s facility has been rendered unserviceable because of its partially dilapidated surface.

Swaths of the track lay unbound to the pavement underneath and can be lifted and peeled back like loose carpet.

Resurfacing the track is “a huge priority,” according to athletic director Mike Stone, and SAU 88 business manager Tim Ball — whose daughter, Sarah, is a junior on the team — said the issue is a top item in the district’s facilities improvement plan.

Several sources indicated during Tuesday’s CVC North meet that the facility may be slated for a makeover in summer 2019, though Stone would only confirm that a project is “in the works,” and Ball noted the issue would need to be addressed during the next budget cycle.

Until it is fixed, the Raiders are left with a schedule completely devoid of home meets for the second straight year, and this after a 2016 season during which they hosted just one because of already decaying conditions.

Many of the team’s current athletes haven’t competed in a single meet at home, and probably won’t.

“It’s demoralizing,” fifth-year coach Kevin Lozeau said. “It’s been at least 3-4 years since we hosted meets (regularly), and every year the track gets worse and worse.”

The situation has ramifications beyond the team’s travel budget. No home meets means voids on the schedule — days previously devoted to weekday home meets haven’t always been replaced with away meets, for example — and while the school’s throwing and jumping pits remain well-maintained and utilized at practice, the substandard track has forced workouts to be altered.

“It’s such a thin surface, (runners who use it are) way more prone to shin splints,” Lozeau said. “Tracks usually have some springiness to them, but ours is like running on concrete. That makes it a fast surface, but since we’re not hosting any meets, we don’t really benefit from that. So most of our running workouts are in the hallways or on other terrain.”

While the conditions aren’t a huge point of discussion among Raider athletes — “We just kind of accept we have a terrible track,” said sophomore thrower Caroline Borger — it’s a jab at the program’s pride.

A decade ago, Lebanon’s boys program was the class of NHIAA Class I (now Division II) and in the midst of seven consecutive state championships. It has 11 total titles, most recently in 2014, while the girls outdoor program produced four straight titles from 2008-11. Both programs have sprouted numerous NCAA Division I college athletes, including 2017 graduate Corinne Kennedy (Cornell University).

But where is the prestige in having to hit the road for every meet?

“It’s not a very good reflection of us as a program,” junior sprinter Noel Vorachak said. “It’s tough when you don’t have a good track to train on.”

Lozeau lamented that Kennedy, a sprinting and jumping star, didn’t have the chance to perform more often in front of friends and family at home. “How often does an athlete like that come around?” he said.

Marcus Roper, the reigning D-II shot put champion, said it leaves a void for the team’s recruiting prospects.

“There are a lot of athletic kids in our school that don’t play sports, and sometimes that’s because they haven’t seen it,” Roper said. “(Having home meets) would also help us get pumped up as a team, because you always do when you know there are (supporters) there. Today, being in Hanover, is the first time all year I’ve played even in front of a couple friends.”

Lebanon’s track was last resurfaced in 2012 and had problems from the outset, according to former Lebanon coach Andrew Gamble. The project went to the lowest bidder without adequate consideration for quality, he said, and the synthetic surface was only an eighth of an inch thick instead of the quarter-inch that is more aligned with a customary 10-year life expectancy.

Gamble displayed photographs on Tuesday indicating that lane numerals and other markings remained visible under the 2012 surface coating, as well as tire tracks from application machinery he said lingered as part of the finished product.

Gamble was so upset at the time, it helped usher his resignation. “It wasn’t the only reason I quit, but it was a big reason,” he said.

Meanwhile, those involved with the team hear murmurings of plans for a new surface.

“We keep hearing, ‘It’s going in this summer. Oh, wait, it’s going in this summer,’ and then it doesn’t happen,” senior distance runner Ed Bieszczad said.

According to Ball, the SAU 88 business manager, monies from the district’s capital reserve fund were earmarked for three major projects this budgetary cycle: needed roof repairs to the SAU administrative building and Mount Lebanon elementary school, as well as for a new softball field that is currently out to bid.

The latter project became necessary when Elks Field, where the Raiders’ softball team has played in recent years, was purchased by the Dartmouth Coach bus company with plans to transition the land into a parking facility. Lebanon softball is playing this season at Civic Field, behind Seminary Hill School in West Lebanon.

There is a perception that the softball field project further delayed plans for a new track surface, but Ball didn’t concur.

“I don’t think that’s a fair characterization,” he said.

Lebanon isn’t the only Upper Valley school in need of a new track. The host Marauders will be in the market for one soon, it’s current surface having been laid out about 10 years ago and beginning to show its wear.

“You’re starting to see frost heaves, and when it’s wet, it’s real slick,” Hanover coach Steve McConnell said. “One corner is so shady, I swear it’s the last place in the Upper Valley that the snow melts, and now the ice is getting underneath the track.”

Across the river in Hartford, a years-long effort by supporters to build a new track facility on the Hartford High campus has so far yet to be approved.

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3225.