The school is one of three district to have its track resurfaced.
The Lakewood Ranch High School track is about to become a safer place.
On Nov. 29, the School District of Manatee County will begin installing a red Plexitrac system, a synthetic, rubberized surface that is easier on legs. The current Mustangs' track, which has been in place since the school opened in 1998, is asphalt.
The district, which is installing similar tracks at Manatee and Palmetto high schools, is spending $1.425,000 for all three tracks. Lakewood Ranch High's track is scheduled for completion on Feb. 2.
Mustang coaches have had their athletes train on alternative surfaces for years, knowing the asphalt could take its toll.
“We just tried to piece things together — you just have to deal with it,” said Mark Napier, Lakewood Ranch High School's track coach. “We tried to do a lot of our running inside or on the grass, which is not necessarily a great thing because you can turn an ankle. But it beat running on a hard surface.”
Lakewood Ranch High School also is awaiting word on whether some other requests will be granted in conjunction with the track and field program. Although the pole vault runway is being resurfaced along with the track, Napier said it would help the program to add an additional runway.
Napier said running into a headwind can be a safety issue in the pole vault, so an additional runway (in a different direction) would allow the coaches to adjust to wind.
“Kids can get really hurt in that event, even when they know what they are doing," Napier said. "You surely don’t want to be jumping into a headwind — that’s bad.”
With two runways, and a pit in the middle of each, athletes could compete in four different directions.
Jane Dreger, the director of Construction Services for the district, said the request is being evaluated.
“An architect is verifying there is enough area available to extend the (existing) pole vault runway,” Dreger said. “There are regulations that require certain areas to be clear and we want to insure that we do it in compliance.”
Napier also would like an expansion of his high jump pit area.
“If we double that high jump area, you can run two high jump competitions at one time,” Napier said. “So, if you have a meet where you have to run doubles, you now have the ability to do it.”
Dreger said that request has been approved, although the work schedule has yet to be determined.
Napier said he has made other requests as well that are being considered.
“What they are doing is phenomenal," he said of the district. "I am not trying to be picky, but I am just saying if you’re doing a facility, do it right so you don’t have to do it again.”