End of the line for track

By Christopher Norman

A dead giant lies in the shadow of Huskie Stadium. NIU’s only outdoor track sits in disrepair at the north end with no plans to resuscitate it.

The $9.5 million Academic and Athletic Performance Center is planned to fill the space. The track will be paved over and the land will be incorporated into the center. At that point, the university will no longer have an outdoor track.

The AAPC will include an academic support center, a strength and conditioning center, athletic training and equipment rooms and the football locker room.

The women’s track program was cancelled during the 1981-82 academic year due to budget concerns. The university brought it back in 2000, but budget concerns may once again restrict teams.

A new outdoor track originally was thought of as a possible part of the AAPC project. It was not included, though, because of a $3 million price tag. During the proposal of the Convocation Center, plans included either renovating the existing outdoor track or building a new one as well.

A suitable track and field would include a 400 meter track with eight to 10 lanes and a turf infield, seating to host large meets, four long jump and triple jump pits, locker rooms and training rooms at the track, two shot-put rings, a large high jump and javelin apron, a site next to the track for the hammer and discus, steeplechase pits and barriers and fencing around the facility, said Connie Teaberry, head coach of women’s track and field and cross country.

The track and field and cross country teams currently practice on the roads, in the grass fields, North 40, on the Convocation Center’s indoor track and at DeKalb High School.

Having to go to the high school to practice is “very inconvenient,” said Meagan Guenther, a junior kinesiology and physical education major and women’s track and field team member.

“We understand that there are things that need to happen first,” Teaberry said. “We would love to have a track, but the education of these student athletes and putting them in a position to get unlimited academic resources comes first. So we get the big picture. It will happen; patience is the key. We do not want something just thrown together just to say we have one. It needs to be done right, which means we have to wait.”

A new outdoor track not only would provide optimal training conditions, but would give NIU a better recruiting edge.

“A coach has to be able to compromise. And we have. Enough to set 16 new school records in the 04-05 season, without a track,” Teaberry said. “Just think what we will do with a track. The possibilities are unlimited.”