By Morgan Bryce
After a nearly four-month long construction process, the new track at Opelika High School is close to completion, and track and field coach Jimmy Johnson said he hopes that it will be ready for use during the coming outdoor track and field season.
Ongoing construction marooned athletes for parts of the indoor track and field season earlier this year, as coach Jimmy Johnson had to coordinate practices for his players between OHS’s football field and Beauregard High School’s track.
“Actually having our home back where we’ve been able to bring all those championships home and being able to go to our own place and practice, that will be big for us,” Johnson said.
Johnson said the new track, which cost approximately $1.7 million to construct, boasts nine lines down the 100-meter straight, and eight around its curve. The track also offers space for steeplecrest races, making it the first in the state capable of hosting this event.
The previous track, built in 1974, was antiquated, according to Opelika City Schools Superintendent Dr. Mark Neighbors. Chock full of potholes and repaved segments, the aging track also fell two lanes short of the AHSAA’s current mandate of eight running lanes, which all proved to be major factors in the school’s decision to replace it.
“What people don’t realize about tracks is that they’re like a road. Its got drainage under it and different things … it was just getting where when we’d repair it, sometimes just 150 – 200 feet, it was $70,000 to $80,000. To have put a completely new surface on would have cost $500,000 … that would have been a foolish thing to do,” Neighbors said. “It was just to a point where it wasn’t feasible to keep repairing it and the repairs were not lasting.”
Neighbors said the school selected Beynon Sports Surfaces of Hunter Valley, Md., to construct the track, after seeing an example of their work, the Hutsell-Rosen Track at Auburn University.
“It’s a surface that both will be good to practice and compete on … and it’s going to be a very fast track,” Johnson said.
Outdoor track and field seasons begins this month, and Johnson said there is a possibility of hosting a meet sometime in April. With the team gunning for its third-straight outdoor track and field title this season, Johnson said he wants there to be a big turnout to support his players.
“Hopefully, when the track opens, everybody will come out and support these kids. They’ve been doing a lot of great things for the community, and bringing us back-to-back championships,” Johnson said. “(With the new track) we’re going to get better. We’re at the top, but I think we’re going to be able to surpass what we’ve been able to do.”