New track a hit with runners

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 19, 2010

NATCHEZ — The difference was like going from concrete to carpet, Larry Wesley said.

The track coach at Natchez High School used that analogy to describe the difference for his athletes in running on the school’s new track versus its old, worn-down one.

“It’s great, as far as injuries and workouts for the children,” Wesley said.

And that made a huge difference this past weekend, Wesley said, when the school hosted its first meet in a decade. The effects went beyond improved running conditions for his athletes, he added.

“They’re a lot more enthused about running,” Wesley said. “We had practice (Thursday), and everyone was enthused for that. They’re a lot more enthused than before (we got the new track), because everyone wants to run in front of their parents.”

Joe Perry, a member of the Natchez track team, said the new surface is much more conductive to injury-free practices.

“We used to get shin splints, or you’d mess up your ankle or something,” Perry said. “Now, you can just do your workout and feel good afterwards.”

The added exposure also helped, Wesley said.

“A lot of people have never seen a track meet, so they don’t really know what a track meet is like. It’s a tremendous help in getting this program back to winning state championships, because once the children see what you’re doing out there, they want to come and participate.

“I had more girls and boys this year than I ever had before, and they’re still trying to come out. It’s too early to say right now how much the new track played a part in that, but it doesn’t hurt, it helps.”

Perry said he’s also noticed more participation this spring.

“I think more people have noticed track,” Perry said. “More people are running this year, and overall, there’s more interest.”

Allowing parents to watch their sons and daughters compete without having to travel out of town was also a plus, Perry said.

“I think they enjoyed being able to come right to the school and see us all compete,” Perry said.

And the close proximity to home was good for him too, he said.

“I didn’t have to worry about getting on the bus and coming home after the meet. Plus, the home crowd was there, and it was good having a lot of people behind you.”