TERRE HAUTE —
When it comes to practicing track and field events during the cold of winter, Vigo County high schools trail far behind other schools of similar size, a longtime track coach says.
“We can do all of our training for our running events inside of the [high] schools during the winter months,” Pete Jones said, “but we really need some place to practice the hurdles, long jump, high jump, pole vault and shot put indoors.”
“The lack of facilities to practice for these events also puts us on the short side of entering in higher quality indoor meets,” said Jones, who has been coaching for 49 years.
A lack of indoor training, Jones said, may “also hinder many of our county student athletes from qualifying for the Hoosier state relays and seeking invitation to some of the national high school indoor” invitationals, he said.
As an example, Jones said Terre Haute North Vigo and Terre Haute South Vigo high schools were the only schools that did not practice for the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference Indoor track and field event on March 1 at DePauw University.
North’s girls, despite a lack of practice, won the event.
“We won it, but we went into it not knowing what would happen. Like in the long jump, we had no practice at all. Thank God things worked out, but you don’t like to go into a meet with one arm tied behind you,” Jones said.
Jones is a volunteer coach at Terre Haute North Vigo High School for girls sprinters, hurdlers and long jumpers. He was the girls track coach at North for 15 years, starting in 1983, and later at Sullivan High School for eight years. He also served for a few years as the first girls cross country coach at North.
Before that, he started the Terre Haute Track Club in 1970. He started to coach in 1965 at the Hyte Center.
Now, at 76, Jones is “in the exploratory stage” of trying to find at least a 180-foot long by 60-foot wide facility for indoor training, for North, as well as students from Terre Haute South Vigo and West Vigo high schools. A tall ceiling would be needed for pole vaulting.
“We don’t want to build anything,” Jones said. Instead, Jones said he is looking for an existing site to lease at a miminal cost or some place “as an in-kind donation that could be written off of taxes.”
Jones said he has contacted six owners of large warehouses in hopes of finding a location.
“Some rejected it up front, which I can understand. Another said it would be $1,000 per month. We can’t afford that,” Jones said.
The facility would be for indoor training of high school teams and club teams. The indoor track and field club season is December through February, with high school teams starting after that.
“It is essentially the same,” Jones said, as most high school athletes participate in the club events. “The idea is to expose our kids to better opportunities,” Jones said.
Dan Tanoos, superintendent of the Vigo County School Corp., said Jones “has a long history and a career of volunteerism. I know that he is trying to do off-season training and I admire his drive and commitment.”
Tanoos said the school corporation is not involved financially, but “can show support for what he is trying to do for our kids. If there are ways we can help by policy or through past practice, we would, but would need more details before we could make a commitment.”
Keirra Porter, 15, is an example of an athlete who would benefit from indoor training, Jones said. The Terre Haute North student, who will be a junior this year, has qualified in the long jump to take part in the 2013 World Youth Track and Field trials at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville on Tuesday and Wednesday, Jones said.
Porter will also participate in the USATF National Youth Championships three days later at the same venue in the long jump. On Saturday, Porter will compete in the USATF Indiana Junior Olympic Track and Field Championship at Wabash College.
“With me doing long jump, I can’t practice indoor, just outdoors,” Porter said. “We do more running and conditioning in the hallways during the winter.”
Training indoors, Porter said, would enable her to “work year round, instead of just in the summer and having to stop when it gets cold. You then go to a meet [in the spring] and just jump, without practice. The practice helps me keep my technique and makes sure my run-through is fine,” Porter said.
Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or firstname.lastname@example.org.