VCHS to host first meet on all-weather track on Thursday

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By Andrew Harner

The first varsity meet on the all-weather track at Vandalia Community High School will take place on Thursday at 4:15 p.m.

Other teams participating are Christ Our Rock Lutheran, Patoka, St. Elmo and Cowden-Herrick/Beecher City.

The track, which was built primarily with grant money, has been a great benefit to the track teams, according to coaches.

"Every day, when these athletes and I come out to this facility, we are so happy," said boys track coach Jane Bell. "It's so great that the junior high and high school teams can run together.

"When you come out here (during practice), there are probably more than 100 athletes running around, because there is enough room for everybody."

The eight-lane all-weather track was installed throughout last summer and fall, with some finishing touches added this spring.

VCHS received funding from the Sports Boosters ($5,000 per year), the school’s operation and maintenance fund ($5,000 per year), Pepsi ($10,000 per year), the city of Vandalia's TIF fund ($65,000 per year) and the Hazel Simma Kelly Foundation ($15,000 per year) to complete the project. Each entity will give the amount listed each year for five years.

Many community members, former athletes and businesses also donated equipment to the track, with the Rames family donating $5,000 for a high jump pit, and numerous others contributing $1,000.

Bell said she was thankful to all donors.

In addition to allowing VCHS to host track meets for the first time in decades, the new facility also gives members of the community a precisely measured place to exercise, which many individuals have already taken advantage of.

Both junior high and high school athletes have been using the track for practice since March, but the first meet use of the facility was on Monday, when the junior high hosted a meet with Litchfield.

Three of the four junior high teams were victorious.

The junior high teams had previously held meets on the cinder track, but no high school meet has taken place in Vandalia since the 1980s.

"It's such an exciting time to be a part of this track team," said first-year girls track coach Gena Nance. "The new track and everything that is happening (with the girls team) is encouraging."