Tracks nearing completion at St. James high schools

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 12, 2002


VACHERIE – Runners in St. James Parish aren’t going to know what hit them, or didn’t hit them when they step onto the new softer tracks at St. James and Lutcher high schools.

After being delayed by discrepancies between the contractors and the engineers about the overall distance of the track, each shifted the blame for it’s non-regulation length of 400 meters once the old surfaces had been removed, the two high school tracks are nearing the mark of completion almost four months from the original deadline date. The starting guns were aimed at firing shortly after February 15 of this year, and shortly before the culmination of the track and field season.

“I wish it had been done about four months ago,” said Lutcher head track coach Robert Madere.

“But with as much work that had to be done, I knew from the start it probably wouldn’t be ready on time.”

As the foundation for the tracks was being laid, both tracks were found to be more than 400 meters from start to finish. To correct the length, the radius of each track was moved in toward the football field on one end. Half of the track at Lutcher was also raised, to be level throughout the full circumference.

“I know the slope was like running up hill one way and down hill the other way, now it’s level,” added Madere. “You can look from the scoreboard side of the field and tell it was raised on one side.”

Before the school board can consider the tracks as finished, a “punch list” of loose ends and imperfections must first be written up, then crossed off as each of the last problems are fixed. The length of the punch list and the cost to fix each problem will not add to the projects’ cost, but are an expense to the contractor.

“The school board took a hard line of no more money,” said Terry McCreary, supervisor of operations and maintenance for the school board. He said only one request was granted early during the projects to raise the budget.

McCreary said some of the problems which should come up on the punch lists some imperfections in the track surfaces, standing water by the high jump area and some general landscaping items.

Currently, the tracks are open to the public for exercise and are being used by some of the schools’ athletes, both for practice and recreation.

“I ran a lap on the track and it’s a lot better,” said Madere. “It’s nice and soft, where the other track was really hard. It was like running on concrete, and I think the few injuries we had were because of it.”

While the track was being replaced, members of the track team were running on concrete, grass and where ever they could run for practice.

Madere linked the odd practice routines and the lack of a home track to a somewhat lower number of runners for the season.

He said about 40 athletes joined the Bulldogs’ track program, and while the number was not an all-time low, he expects a larger turnout for the upcoming season.

“I am also looking forward to next season because we will have the ability to bring track meets back to Lutcher,” said Madere. “We hadn’t run a track meet in eight or nine years.”