Track restoration project picks up seed |

Track restoration project picks up seed

Steve Yingling
At left, in one of the most unique settings in track and field history, the 1968 Olympic track and field trials took place at Echo Summit. Today, the worn-out track, which has been relocated to South Tahoe Middle School, has many cracks and some bumps as fund-raisers try to collect money to refurbish it.

A reunion of 1968 Olympians in 2000 and a brief spot on an HBO documentary did little to attract money to repair the historical tartan track at South Tahoe Middle School.

But this weekend the delapidated track used for the 1968 U.S. Olympic men’s track and field trials will receive national attention. A Legendary Run will cap the Road Runners Club of American national convention on Sunday at 9 a.m.

The $30 entry fees will go toward a $275,000 project to restore the track that was originally placed at Echo Summit to prepare the ’68 Olympians for the Mexico City Games. The high-altitude training did wonders for that American team as they won 12 gold medals and set six world records. Today, the team is still considered the best U.S. track and field team ever. Some of the stars from that team included Bob Beamon, John Carlos, Tommie Smith and lee Evans.

Following the trials, the track was donated by the U.S. Olympic Committee to the city. The city relocated the track to its present site at STMS.

Despite occasional resurfacing treatments, 35-plus years of harsh Sierra winters have taken their toll on the oval. Dips, cracks and slippery footing have caused local high school and middle school leagues to rule the track unsafe for hosting track and field meets.

“Unfortunately because of its age and lack of budget it’s fallen in a state of disrepair and it’s at a point where we just need to replace it. As of the budget woes have continued for the city and the school district, especially over the last 10 years, it has been hard to allocate any money toward it,” said city of South Lake Tahoe Parks Superintendent Steve Weiss. “I hope within the next year or so we can put all of this together and have a brand new track on the ground.”

Leading the fundraising efforts has been Track Renovation 4 Community & Kids, which is a group of school personnel, city employees and concerned citizens. The group has raised more than $17,000 thus far and is hopeful that several private and public grants will expedite fundraising.

As a STMS physical education teacher and lifelong resident of the South Shore, Karin Holmes knows how important a track facility is to the community.

“I ran a lot of laps on the track,” said Holmes, who attended the Olympic Trials with her parents as a 3-year-old.

Weiss has many fond memories of the track.

“I haven’t used it for myself to stay in shape, but I did have an opportunity to see my daughter run on it. Anytime we can get the kids out there using it, especially when we get the bigger track meets for the kids, that’s when it’s really a nice event,” he said.

Fundraising efforts have been slowed by a variety of economic problems.

“We didn’t have good timing with this. Five years ago it would have been a lot easier,” said Holmes, who has taken a lead role in fundraising efforts. “The whole community is being asked for a lot of things right now.”

For more information or to make a donation, please phone Holmes at (530) 541-6404, ext. 215.

Registration for Sunday’s benefit 10K run and 5K run/walk begins at 7:45 a.m., with racing to follow. The races will begin at Lake Tahoe Community College and conclude at the STMS track.

There also is a donor wall at the middle school. Donors’ names will be listed on plaques if they contribute $100 for a meter. Those contributing $300 or more will receive additional recognition.

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