Home track advantage

By Robert Husseman, The Triplicate June 16, 2012 12:00 am

Del Norte looks to upgrade its timing system, hurdles for bigger track meets

The Del Norte High School track and field team is hoping to replace its hurdles and race timing system with newer models, in part to host regular-season or postseason track meets. Del Norte Triplicate/Bryant Anderson
The Del Norte High School track and field team is hoping to replace its hurdles and race timing system with newer models, in part to host regular-season or postseason track meets. Del Norte Triplicate/Bryant Anderson
On May 10, Del Norte High School track and field coach Samuel Escobar appeared before the School Board.

Escobar opened by praising his athletes, coaches, fundraisers and other supporters within the community, many of whom were in attendance. Shortly thereafter, he got down to the greater purpose of his appearance.

He related the story of Humboldt-Del Norte League officials approaching Del Norte High about hosting the North Coast Section/Les Schwab Redwood Empire Meet, the regional stepping-stone before the North Coast Section Meet of Champions.

“Every so often, the league itself has an opportunity to host Redwood Empire,” Escobar told the board. “Our facility is one of the best equipped for it, but we turned it down. ”

One worry, Escobar acknowledged, was the inability to find the number of volunteers necessary to put on a large track meet. Two others were more material.

The first concern was a collection of hurdles and a place to put them.

“We probably need about 80 hurdles in order to run a good hurdle event. Right now, we have 74 because the weather beats on them (and) people play with them,” Escobar said. “Right now they get stored under the bleachers — not the ideal place for them.

“The other need we have is some sort of timing system that is not so antiquated as what we currently have. The lack of a good timing system is what kept our school this year from hosting the Redwood Empire Meet.”

Postseason high school competitions represent opportunities that, according to Escobar and Del Norte athletic director Randy Fugate, extend far beyond the high school’s grounds.

“My level of interest (in hosting the Redwood Empire meet) was high. Economically, it’s a great thing for Crescent City,” Fugate said. “Anytime you can host an event, you’re always thinking, economically speaking, that a few dollars stay in town.”

For Warrior athletes and coaches, the money saved from home contests goes a long way at a time when high school athletic budgets are severely crimped.

“For local athletes, it eliminates the travel time to go someplace, the overnight lodging and the travel expenses,” Escobar said. “The fact that they’re around peers, they have a big support system (around) — it’s a friendly environment.”

Not to mention, Escobar added, that out-of-area athletes could stand to benefit from the road trip.

“When kids come up here, they have no clue there’s something north of Santa Rosa,” he said.

Del Norte High School last hosted the Redwood Empire meet in 2007; then Warrior track and field coach Scott Lindsay was the meet director.

“If you would’ve seen Scott, he was going from one thing to another to another to another,” said Escobar, who was an assistant coach under Lindsay that season. “You’re basically giving up the coaching of your kids.”

Spreading oneself too thin was an initial hang-up for Escobar, who recently completed his first season as Del Norte’s head coach. Finding and training volunteers to conduct 16 separate events — some going on simultaneously — poses a challenge as well.

Hurdles cost $125 to $400 per unit, depending upon certain features. The Warriors’ hurdles are exposed to moisture, thereby more susceptible to rust, in their current storage situation under the bleachers; that need, however, is not as pressing as that of a timing system.

Sufficient and accurate timing systems range from $5,000 to $20,000; a timing system at the upper end of the scale would be suitable at national or international track meets.

Fugate, who will abdicate the athletic director position in July, is conditionally in favor of purchasing a timing system when the money can be made available or received through donors.

“I’d love to see that,” he said. “It puts us in a place where times have some pretty big meaning. We can advocate, ‘Hey, we’re really set up now.’”

The Warriors hosted a Humboldt-Del Norte League track meet on March 28 and a few middle-school track meets for this season. Escobar and Fugate see the upgrades as a way toward attracting more track meets with more out-of-town guests. The ancillary benefits of these meets would, in theory, be passed along to local businesses, giving them a few more customers in lean times.

It is improbable that Del Norte would host a North Coast Section Meet of Champions track meet, but the school could garner consideration over time. “For the Meet of Champions there is a track management committee that reviews the site and our needs for that particular meet and we make that determination in the fall for each year,” North Coast Section Associate Commissioner Karen Smith said in an e-mail.

The message is simple for other Warrior sports teams hoping to host postseason games: Be good enough to do so. Beginning in 2012–13, playoff games and matches beyond the first round will be hosted by the school with the higher playoff seed, according to Smith.

Playoff sites must meet certain criteria to host games and matches, as outlined in the NCS bylaws. Considerations include adequate parking and restroom facilities, minimum seating capacity, a public address system and adequate changing facilities for the home and visiting teams.

Fugate has kept an informal to-do list of various athletic projects, none of which have a timetable at this juncture, he said. Among them: Expanding the concession area and restrooms at Mike Whalen Field, and fixing or replacing the scoreboards at the baseball and softball diamonds.

Del Norte had a successful track season this spring, sending six athletes to the NCS Meet of Champions and thrower Morgan Laney to the California Interscholastic Federation State Track Meet. (Laney finished 12th in the shot put.)

“(Escobar and the assistant coaches) went way beyond the regular season,” Fugate said. “They gave up weekend after weekend, moving up the ranks.”

What would the season have looked like if the Warriors had a second home meet on the schedule?

Athletic programs, like athletes, hold aspirations of their own.

Reach Robert Husseman at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it