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We need a track to keep track tradition growing

Over the past few years, Vicksburg has become a track town. High school standouts like Terrell Smith, Leon Miles and DeMichael Harris have won multiple state championships. St. Aloysius won two team titles in 2015 and might get another one this weekend. It’s a legacy to be proud of.

Unfortunately, we’re in danger of becoming a town without a track.

St. Aloysius, for all its success, doesn’t have one. Neither does Porters Chapel Academy. The ones at Warren Central and Vicksburg High are becoming more decrepit by the month. Irrigation work on the football field at Warren Central left a ditch in the track that local runners joked made it feel like they were training for a steeplechase event instead of a marathon. The finish line at VHS’ track has large patches of exposed asphalt.

Replacing the tracks at Warren Central and Vicksburg is not a cheap or easy proposition. A rubberized running track lasts about seven years before it needs to be resurfaced, and around 20 before it needs to be replaced entirely. Both tracks are at the age where they need to be replaced, which would cost around $1 million each.

The price tag makes it a major project in a time of tight budgets and higher priorities. New tracks have been on the wish list for years, but also pushed to the back burner while necessary upgrades are made elsewhere. Vicksburg Warren School District athletic director Preston Nailor, and his predecessor Lum Wright Jr., have often faced a Sophie’s Choice when it came to construction — Tackle several minor but necessary projects, or one big one? Build a track or something else that’s needed?

It’s a tough call every time, and the track has always come out on the losing end.

Since taking over for Wright in 2016, Nailor has been on a mission to modernize the VWSD’s athletic facilities and programs. He’s done a good job with his vision, but hopefully a couple of new tracks come into focus in the near future.

A suitable track is a community asset. It’s a place people can come walk or run and get exercise. For the resident high school teams it’s a key training tool that also would allow them to host meets. They haven’t hosted one since 2013 because the tracks are not up to competition standards.

We have a great running culture here in Vicksburg, whether it’s at the competitive or recreational level. Let’s give all of them the single biggest tool we can to keep it from becoming just a memory.

Ernest Bowker is a sports writer for The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at ernest.bowker@vicksburgpost.com

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured sports reporters in the paper's 137-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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