The Hickman track team is used to walking out the back doors of its school and down a small grassy hill for practice on the track at Hickman Stadium. On Wednesday, though, the team traveled by bus across town and up a slightly larger hill to the Rock Bridge track for its daily practice.
On Wednesday, Fieldturf workers began installing artificial turf on Hickman’s football field, which the track surrounds. The track will be resurfaced as part of the process.
On March 15, the Columbia Board of Education approved a $1.41 million plan to resurface the fields at Hickman and Rock Bridge. Fieldturf placed the lowest bid after granting an $18,000 discount on the condition that work on the fields start by April 1. District Athletic Director Bruce Whitesides said that though the work is beginning at the end of April, the discount is still part of the deal.
Fieldturf will begin work at Rock Bridge on May 15, two days after district competition begins for track and field. Hickman and Rock Bridge athletes competing in the postseason will have to find a new track to practice on. Whitesides said he wasn’t sure where that would be.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” he said. “The college levels should be done by then and Stankowski’s an option. We’re still entertaining those ideas but we don’t want to interfere with other events.”
For now, the teams will share the track and field at Rock Bridge. The work will not affect the throwing pit so Hickman throwers will remain at their school. Distance runners will spend their time running on the streets around Hickman on some days and practicing on the Rock Bridge track on others. As a result, Hickman coach Steve Kissane will be going back and forth a lot in the next few weeks.
Kissane said he explained to the kids that this sort of thing happens in other areas as well. Kissane is a teacher at Smithton Middle School and he said there are music teachers at the school who teach in concession stands and broom closets, and they’ve been doing it for over 10 years.
“They have space issues, but they stay so upbeat all the time,” he said. “Then they go to state and they do fantastic and I think it’s their positive attitudes that get them so far.”
“I tell the kids that we can use this as an opportunity to grow,” he said. “Because the competition’s not going to be sympathetic.”
Hickman senior Asia Walker said she wasn’t excited about the merger.
“Sharing a track is gonna be crazy,” she said. “I don’t want them watching me run and pacing me.”
Rock Bridge sophomore Lauren Borduin said that shouldn’t be a problem.
“We’re going to be doing our own separate things so it’s more in terms of space that there’s an issue,” Borduin said. “Sometimes we feel like we’re crowded already with just our team.”
Borduin said space would be tightest on Tuesdays and Thursdays when the distance runners joined the sprinters on the track.
“It would have been so much better if they would have waited another couple of weeks,” she said. “It’s nice to have our track resurfaced, but we’re trying to focus on track right now and we’re without a track.”
Whitesides said that weather permitting, both fields should be completed at the beginning of August when the fall sports start practicing.
In the time being, Borduin said the schools could put aside their competition and stick it out.
“I know we’re rivals or what-not, but we’re in this together,” she said. “Right now we share the same problems.”