Van-Far dedicates its first all-weather track in history

By Jeremy Jacob, sportswriter

The new Van-Far track will be able to withstand all types of weather.

Many schools have these types of facilities for athletics, but the Van-Far School District reported Tuesday that its athletics team will have the facilities to match other schools. Superintendent John Fortney and school board members collectively cut the black ribbon in a ceremony held at the site of the new all-weather track that surrounds the new football field.

Fortney said on Tuesday that the project, undertaken by Byrne and Jones, is “99% complete”, with minor fencing and drainage issues that still need to be resolved. It’s the first all-weather track in school history, Fortney said, because the funding has gone to other projects in the past, but the recent success of Van-Far athletes has convinced the district that it was the turn of athletics.

“A lot of times the money from the facilities has been invested elsewhere,” Fortney said. “At the time, the track program numbers weren’t really big, but if you look at the history of the program, the school has won two state track championships in the last decade. So we have the athletes, and hopefully that’s the kind of thing that will allow us to bring some things back.

Van-Far Boys Athletics won four consecutive district titles from 2015-18 and consecutive state titles in 2017-18, with Josh Hodde winning the Class 1 state championships in the 110 and 300 meter hurdles in 2018. At the time, Hodde had to practice his tests in the high school hallways because his previous dirt track had been unusable for years.

Fortney said the old track was built in the 1970s and had too much water. Because the new track won’t have these issues, he said the plan was to hold a meet in the spring as he recalls students being excited about the facilities but wondering when they could hold the earliest.

“We’re going to make sure we have a little competition just to get ourselves under control,” Fortney said. “Hopefully over the next two years the district will invest in hosting the district or championship track meet. The facilities that we have built here with Byrne and Jones and with the money that we received (from the Department of Natural Resources), it will allow us to do that, and that is what our community deserves.

The bid for the project was approved in November 2021, with a grant under the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Land and Water Conservation Fund covering approximately $304,000. The district covered the remaining $476,006, including $167,002 for field improvements, Fortney said. Bond funds from June 2020 along with money from the district’s capital projects fund covered the district’s share of the cost of the project which began in early spring.

Fortney said the track would even be available for community use after school hours or when the school isn’t using it. He said it would be dawn till dusk now.

“Certain times of the year will be busier than others,” Fortney said. “Spring with track workouts will close the track until approximately 6 p.m., but we’ll let the community know when it’s unavailable.”

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