by Chris Hunt
For many years, the Eddie Smith Field House on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has been the site of the Class 4A indoor track state championship. This winter, however, construction on the indoor facility has forced the N.C. High School Athletic Association to search for a new location.
As of this week, the NCHSAA has yet to settle on a site for this year’s championships but announced the event will be held at an outdoor facility in February. The NCHSAA discussed out-of-state indoor facilities and the prospect of even canceling the state meet before embarking on a statewide hunt for an outdoor site.
With the prospects of a “polar bear” track championship on the horizon, Lake Norman-area indoor track coaches are facing a challenging situation. North Mecklenburg coach Lawrence Lawson is concerned that near-freezing weather conditions could result in injuries if athletes do not prepare adequately. He’s been forced to reevaluate his traditional training techniques to prepare for frigid temperatures. His standout girls 4x400-meter squad, which returns junior Trikeria Johnson and senior Alexis Jordan, and triple jumper Robert Jenkins are state meet hopefuls.
“Holding a track meet outdoors in February is probably one of the worst ideas injury-wise for sprinters and throwers because of the temperatures,” said Lawson. “Distance runners have it better because they have longer to get in a rhythm. Sprinters only have seconds in their event and have to go all out.
“We have to figure out how to keep them warm and comfortable. It’s cool now (in November), but it’s not as cold as it’s going to get in February.”
After top-10 team finishes in the 2010 boys indoor and outdoor 4A meets, Hopewell coach Michelle Lapointe is eyeing another big effort in 2011, bringing back sprinter Anthony Bynum, who finished among the top three in the 55 and 300 events at last winter’s state meet. Hopewell also returns thrower Tyriq Jackson and strong sprint and distance relay teams, led by Corey Silvestri, who holds the school record in the 500 meters.
Lapointe said her Titans might have an advantage in the cold. An outdoor venue is 400 meters long, unlike indoor facilities, such as the Eddie Smith Field House, which are 200 meters. Lapointe added her Titans are much more comfortable with the longer straightaways of a paper-clip shaped outdoor track because it matches their school’s practice facility.
“We train outside, and most of our (winter) meets are outside anyway,” said Lapointe. “In the past, we had a disadvantage to the Raleigh schools because we don’t have indoor facilities like they do to put us on even ground. On a 200-meter track, runners spend more time in the turns.”