Richmond Hill High School christened its new rubberized-surface running track on Tuesday, and Wildcat athletes aren’t the only ones who will reap its benefits.
The rubberized track replaced the school’s asphalt one, giving RHHS a running facility few schools around can match.
“We’re now one of I think eight schools in a 100-mile radius that has something like this, so it’s going to be a big advantage,” said Levi Sybert, Richmond Hill’s cross country and track and field head coach.
The Bryan County Board of Education funded the $303,000 track renovation with a combination of Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax and general funds.
Also, local sponsors stepped in to provide materials and man-hours. Coastal Electric Cooperative donated and installed
14 state-of-the-art LED light poles around the track.
“This area has a lot going for it, and we look at our youth as the biggest and best resource that we could possibly have,” said Coastal CEO Whit Hollowell.
The asphalt track limited the amount of time RHHS runners could practice because of the strain the hard surface can put on the body. Not having a rubber track also made scheduling home meets next to impossible, Sybert said.
RHHS sophomore Ian Watson, who competes in 800-meter and mile runs, looks forward to having the rubberized track for his final two high-school seasons.
“Whenever we went to meets, we would have rubber tracks, but we never got to practice on one,” he said. “So we were never as good as we could be.”
Along with the track and cross country teams, other RHHS organizations, athletic teams and physical-education classes will be able to use the track.
The general public also is welcome to run or walk at the track when a school event isn’t being held.
“It’s definitely something this community has needed for a long time,” Bryan County Schools Superintendent Dr. Paul Brooksher said. “It’s going to be a great asset for not just the school, but the community as a whole.”
The rubberized track is just part of Sybert’s vision for the facility.
The RHHS Track and Cross Country Booster Club is in the midst of raising money for additions, including a pavilion, scoreboard and running trail.
“It’s been a very aggressive initiative,” Sybert said. “This (track) is the foundation of the overall initiative.”
One of the new track’s amenities is a water pit, enabling RHHS to include steeplechase in its home track meets.
Few high-school facilities have the means to host steeplechase, a sport that combines distance running, hurdle jumps and water jumps.
“We will become a focal point for a lot of people on the East Coast,” Sybert said.