Natchez High to host first track meet on new surface

Published 12:05 am Thursday, March 11, 2010

NATCHEZ — On Saturday, parents of Natchez High School track and field athletes will sit down and watch their sons and daughters compete.

Only, for the first time in several years, they won’t have to travel out of town to do so.

Natchez High hasn’t been able to host a track meet due to the poor condition of its former track. But the school recently finished laying down a new track and is ready to show it off on Saturday, beginning at 11 a.m.

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“All I can tell you is, it’s a breath of fresh air,” Natchez track coach Larry Wesley said. “After all the hurt legs (from practicing on the old track), we haven’t had any running on this new track. The whole school is excited.”

And it’s not just the school, Wesley said. The Natchez community has expressed interest in using the track for recreational purposes.

“They can’t use it yet, though,” Wesley said. “They’ll be able to in a few weeks. We have to put some rules and guidelines together for them to see.”

For a school that’s home to multiple state championships in track and field, Wesley said he hopes the new track will help attract top athletes to Natchez and continue the strong tradition the Bulldogs have in the sport.

“This is a blessing for the school, because we’ve been outstanding even before I came here. I just hope this can get people excited and interested, and can help bring back that tradition.”

Someone familiar with that past success is former Natchez track coach Henry “Doc” Woods. Woods, who recently returned to Natchez to teach math, said having a track at your school puts the school in an elite position.

“We would like to present the people of Natchez with a championship track,” Woods said. “We want to be the best and beat the best. When you have a track, you can practice in any area of competitiveness, and when the meet day comes, you’re ready.”

Wesley also said the ability to host events for the first time gives his athletes greater exposure, which could potentially mean more scholarship opportunities for them.

“Scholarships are hard to come by these days, and this helps a lot in getting attention for my athletes,” Wesley said. “These kids going to college is the most important thing to me, and of all the schools that will be here Saturday, none of them have a track like this other than Vicksburg.”

In addition to Vicksburg, the meet will host Amite County, Woodville, Jefferson County, Franklin County, Port Gibson, Madison Parish and Ferriday. The meet begins at 11 a.m. Saturday.

“The last 10 or 12 years, guess where I’ve been?” Wesley said. “On the road. We’ve done pretty well on the road, and hopefully they’ll be more inspired, since they’ll be competing at home.

While the new track is a vast improvement from the old, Woods and Wesley both said there are still things that need to be added.

“We’re looking forward to having some lines around the infield,” Woods said. “We have to have it, because if we don’t, and we break a record, that record won’t be sanctioned. That’s one of the school board’s targets, and hopefully they’ll get it done so we can get certified.”

Wesley said there’s also some more equipment the school needs to get on-site before it can host a traditional meet.

“This weekend is a relay meet, and the next meet will be a traditional one, after we get the equipment we need in a few weeks,” Wesley said. “That’s when pole vault, hurdles and high jump people come in.”