Parents Stir Movement, Look to Raise Funds for New Track

Between the varsity, junior varsity and modified teams, Brewster's track program is made up of more than 200 students.

Chris Barbara yearns to see his sons compete in a track meet at Brewster before they graduate, and he thinks there is only one way to pursue a new facility: aggressively.

Barbara is one of a handful of parents who are in the preliminary stages of a campaign to raise funds for the cost of a new track at . The varsity and junior varsity track teams, which are made up of 115 athletes, have outgrown the the six-lane raceway, according to Coach Joe Scelia. The school has not hosted a meet in several years. 

“To be kind, we have a very minimal, substandard area for our track team,” Athletic Director Lance Pliego said.

Because the facility is a quarter-mile track rather than a 400-meter track — which Pliego said is "short and fat” rather than "long and skinny" — the space inside for jumping and throwing events is limited. There is no pole vault area and the long jump, which Pliego called “marginal at best,” runs too closely to the lacrosse field. Unlike most facilities the team visits, the pit is made of concrete, rather than rubber. Scelia said the inconsistency adds to the challenge of preparing the athletes for competition.

“It’s tough to just simulate the real life event and it’s frustrating for everyone involved,” he said.

The track is also in need of a fresh surface. While patches of it have been repaired, officials estimate it has been eight to 10 years since the last resurfacing. Pliego said resurfacing is usually done every seven to 10 years, and that this one is nearing the end of its “life expectancy.” He could not give a specific length of time, but if safety becomes a concern and the team is unable to practice, officials would have to address the issue sooner than later.

"It's been put on the back burner because of the budgets in recent years, definitely," Pliego said. 

Even with those difficulties, Pliego said that whatever Scelia is doing is working. The boys squad took the at the championship meet earlier this month, and the girls placed third.

When he took over as coach nine years ago, Scelia worked with 25 athletes. Now, the program seems to be growing steadily, with 98 students on the modified team.

“I don’t think the problem before Joe [Scelia] was so apparent because we didn’t have a big track program, and Joe [Scelia] created a monster,” Pliego said with a chuckle.

The teams’ success has created momentum among many parents, Barbara said.

“We were sort of clueless in a way,” he said, explaining how the team's success boosted many parents' desires to watch a competition at Brewster. “We were just going through and not realizing, ‘Why don’t we have a meet at home?’”

After watching how well the team performed this year and talking with Scelia, Barbara said the movement he and two other parents are spearheading “finally clicked.” Pliego said that in his four years as athletic director, there had always been “pockets” of support for a new track. This time, the support is larger and the parents have turned to the (BSF).

"[Principal] Dr. [Joseph] Castagnola has been extremely supportive," Barbara wrote in an email. "I have been in a few meetings with Joe [Scelia], Lance [Pliego], Dr C. and Assistant Principal [Kieran] Stack, who clearly expressed that the school will be supportive, but mentioned the fund-raising needs to be the responsibility of the parents and the BSF."

According to John Frates, the foundation’s president, this type of project is exactly why the foundation was created.

“You need grassroots, you need people in the community,” he said.

Frates is set to meet with administrators next week to discuss logistics and a feasibility study. If officials agree to the study and the foundation can set their sights on some type of financial goal, they’ll get right to work.

While Frates said the foundation does not limit its fundraising to any one sector, Barbara is hoping a corporate sponsor would step up to the plate and make an offer.

“We’re all coming along with big ideas,” he said, adding that he would love to have a new track in place by next spring. “We need to know whether it’s doable first and how much.”

Frates said he cannot see why officials would opt against a feasibility study, calling the project a “necessary thing.” 

“This would really benefit the entire community,” he said. “So many people use it [the facility] because there’s really no place else for them to go and walk a track.”

Ashley Tarr (Editor) May 24, 2011 at 01:30 AM
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