By Rob Ketcham
The Cullman Times
COLD SPRINGS —
The major renovations made to the track at Cold Springs High are no joke — even if they did debut at the Eagles' annual April Fools Invitational.
Highlighted by the addition of two new inches of asphalt to the running surface, as well as the extension of the track to a full 400 meters, the $40,000 project was completed just in time for the arrival of the massive field that made the trek to the cozy community of Cold Springs on Friday.
Although the smoother, finer-grained asphalt — a clear improvement compared to the coarser stone previously used — featuring new bright-white stripes, numbers, arrows and hurdle markers was the most notable upgrade, the relocation of the long jump, triple jump and pole vault pits was also welcomed with open arms.
“We weren’t going to be able to host any meets until this was done,” said coach Clay Campbell, whose Eagles were forced to hold their annual March Invite at Corner High last month while the final phases of the renovation were still being worked on. “Back to when we had Nathan Lewis, Palee Myrex, kids that have ran the last 10-15 years, we’ve talked about getting it redone.”
The need for the changes was long overdue — at least one lane at last year’s county meet had so many dangerous craters, cracks and holes it was deemed unsafe and unusable — but budgets are generally tight at smaller county schools like Cold Springs.
Luckily for the program, however, the required money was obtained just in time to save the Eagles’ 2013 home schedule. Campbell said some of the $40,000 was contributed by Sen. Paul Bussman, some from the Cullman County Community Development Commission and the rest from what the school’s been able to save up over the year.
Cold Springs was able to keep a few extra pennies in its pocket by doing as much labor as possible on its own. Campbell was thankful for the selflessness of many of his student-athletes’ parents, who put in a great deal of blood, sweat, tears and time to implement the upgrades in time for Friday’s meet.
“It’s been a team effort,” the coach said.
The process of restoring the track wasn’t always easy for Campbell, but the payoff was immediate for the longtime coach who’s synonomous with the Eagles’ track and field and cross country programs.
“The first time they practiced on it this week was like they had a new toy, a new bicycle, a new room,” he said. “They had to walk around awhile on it to make sure it was really theirs. I’m proud for them.”
The pole vault area used to be located up by the fieldhouse, where passersby would often unintentionally meander through the field of play, but has since been moved to a much more convenient site on the far end of the football field. It’s complete with its very own runway, which made Logan Campbell one happy kid.
“It’s exciting getting new stuff like this,” Cold Springs’ star pole vaulter said. “Everybody that used to come would say, ‘Aw, we hate this track. It’s crappy.’ But you can’t say that about it now. It’s really nice.
“It makes us feel like we’re on up there. You go to bigger schools, and we have the same setup now.”
Right next to the pole vault lane is the snazzy new runway and pit for the long jump and triple jump events. For the Eagles’ Vince Stewart, who has established himself as one of the best jumpers in the area, the facility improvements have been a long time coming.
“It helps a lot I think. This track team deserves a lot after all the years we’ve been doing this and us having as bad of a track as we did,” he said. “This being my senior year, I was hoping this would be done for us to have a track meet, and it finally did. I’m just proud to be able to jump on it.”
Anyone who knows anything about Cold Springs is fully aware of the school’s reputation for cranking out long-distance runners. Those are some of the athletes who have suffered the most from the deterioration of the track, however, not just because of risky conditions but also because of the previous version’s length coming up annoyingly short of 400 meters.
Kramer Crider is quite happy those days are over now that the track has been extended to the official distance.
“It feels good to be here the first season we have a new track, especially now that it’s 400 meters,” the freshman speedster said. “We don’t have to worry about starting different places and trying to get our splits different places on the track.”
William Calvert, a former Eagle coach, said he remembers trying to prioritize the recent renovations when he served as Cold Springs High’s principal from 2005-10. With the success and high standing of the school’s track program, he felt the changes were justified then, so he was definitely pleased to see them implemented on Friday, even though he now coaches rival St. Bernard.
“It’s something Coach Campbell and this community have worked on for quite a long time,” Calvert said. “This is a great community, and they deserve having a fine facility. And they will use it — a lot.”
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 257 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.