Status Quo For Prep Track and Field in Jackson Needs To Change
Coaches, Students in the Jackson-Madison Co. Schools Discuss Lack of Track Facility
Meet Day is a fun day for high school runners in the Jackson-Madison County School System. That's because on the day of the meets – the students run on the rubberized surfaces at USJ or Dyersburg High School.
“On the track it has material that’s soft on your feet and ankle,” said Chris Chism, a Bethel University sophomore and former sprinter at Jackson-Central Merry Academy of Medical Technology.
That’s a very different description than the concert, gravel and grass public school students run on at their respective campuses. Track and Field is offered as a varsity sport at all five Jackson-Madison County high schools, but the district hasn’t provided a regulation track in the 18 years the sport has been offered.
As a result, the teams conduct their practices in parking lots and on grass. It’s been the status quo since 1993.
"It’s kind of tough,” said Eric Chism, a junior on the JCM track team.
“Sometimes when we run in the gravel, we'll slip somewhere. I’ve had some injuries on this track," said Eric.
The public school system owns three non-regulation tracks. There’s one behind Madison Academic.
“I run on a track that’s a little less than in good shape. I guess you could say it’s really torn up,” said Matt Joiner, a senior distance runner on the Madison Academic track and field team.
"I fell on the track a couple of times, scratched up my back, hurt my wrist, stuff like that," said Chris Chism when asked about his experiences on the deteriorated track shared by JCM and Madison.
There's a second track at Liberty Technology Magnet High School.
“So they built Liberty, they built a track and the track was not built to specifics. So it can’t be used,” said Lynette Anthony, a former track and field coach at North Side High School.
With only 6 lanes and a hard - uncoated - surface, the track at Liberty can't be used for much more than practice.
There’s also the complex on Hollywood Drive.
"It's just plain concrete. You may as well run down the street back and forth to get a workout,” said Chris Chism.
"There’s chunks out of it, it’s terrible,” said Coach Anthony when asked about the track on Hollywood.
“It was terrible 12 years ago when I was coaching middle school (track),” Coach Anthony said.
"There are 5 high schools in the Jackson Madison County School System and there is no track. There's no high jump, no long jump, we don't have the places. It's not fair," said Coach Anthony.
In addition to the evident need for a regulation track facility in the public school system, both students and coaches believe the benefit would expand beyond the short term goal for medals and state titles.
"It would give young people a better opportunity and give them something to look forward to," said Chism.
"Several people from North Side have gone to school on a track scholarship. They were that good with a track. Just think of what we could do if we had the facilities," said Coach Anthony.
“Even if we had one facility that everybody could share.”