First hurdle cleared for new Miller track

The Miller Junior High track may be getting a face lift within the next couple of years.

The Aberdeen School Board, at its meeting last week, authorized the initiation of a process that could lead to the resurfacing of the 37-year-old track, which hosts Aberdeen High and Miller Junior High meets.

District officials will be meeting with track manufacturing companies in the near future to determine the cost of renovating the track. In a best-case scenario, repairs would begin next summer, with a new surface in place by the spring of 2015, according to district Business Manager David Herrington.

“That would depend on our budget and the cost and all those good things,” Herrington said. “It’s all discussion at this point in time.”

The Miller track has been in poor condition in recent years, causing the rescheduling of some home meets.

The adhesive material that connected the rubberized track surface with the asphalt sub-base had become “compromised,” Herrington said. That caused water-filled bubbles to form on the track during wet weather, rendering some portions of the surface unfit for competition.

“(That) causes a tripping hazard for the runners,” Aberdeen High track coach Sherrie Green wrote in an email. “We often can’t use lanes because it is too dangerous for our runners as well as (other) competitors. It’s also a really old surface, so it is not as supportive as newer tracks.”

“Of all our (athletic) facilities, it was the one that was most in need of repair,” Aberdeen athletic director Ken Ashlock agreed. “We’ve had a hard time running meets in the rain.”

Due to advancement in track manufacturing technology, the current difficulties probably would not recur with a new surface.

“It’s still a rubberized material, but it’s a much higher quality than they’ve used in the past,” Herrington said.

The cost of the resurfacing project would depend on the extent of damage to the current track.

If only the rubberized surface needs replacement, Herrington estimated the project could be completed for $125,000-$150,000. But if repairs are also needed to the asphalt base, the price tag could skyrocket to approximately $400,000, he said.

In any event, the district would be seeking grants and donations to supplement district funds in financing the repair work.

Miller Junior High replaced Stewart Field as the primary home for Aberdeen High track in 1976, although the high school briefly had only limited access to the facility.

At one time during the 1970s, the Bobcats were forced to return to Stewart Field, which had been outfitted with red cinders, for a home meet. The times were so poor, during a period in which Black Hills League runners had their times compared with their counterparts from a southern league to determine district berths, that then-Bobcat coach Don Churchill canceled the remainder of the home schedule and opted to compete exclusively on the road that season.

By the early 1980s, however, the Bobcats began using Miller on a full-time basis. The South Aberdeen track even hosted a district meet in 1984.

The condition of the Miller track had deteriorated recently to the extent that only one high school home meet per year had been conducted in 2012 and 2013. One planned Bobcat home meet in 2012 was shifted to Hoquiam’s Sea Breeze Oval.

The possibility of a new track surface was endorsed enthusiastically by past and present Bobcat coaches.

“(It should have happened) a long, long time ago,” Churchill said.

“It will be a track that our athletes will be proud of and will hopefully encourage more kids to come out for track,” Green added. “It is something that needed to happen for many years. Such an exciting step in a progressive future.”