Ashland set to celebrate new track Wednesday

ASHLAND — The community of Ashland has stepped up in many ways over the years to lend support to the athletic teams and facilities for Ashland High School and on Wednesday there will be a celebration to commemorate its latest efforts.

Ashland will officially dedicate the new Robert W. Julian Track directly preceding the first home track and field meet for the Grizzlies this season — and first in over two years. The event will open with an all-comers mile at 3:30 p.m., followed by speeches and a ribbon cutting ceremony. Community members of all ages and ability are invited to come run on the new track during the all-comers race.

“We’re super excited,” said Ashland athletic director Karl Kemper. “We’ve got a facility that we weren’t able to even host a track meet on the last couple years, and the kids weren’t super excited to even practice on, to now something really fantastic. It’s a great surface and we’re fortunate, truly, that the community really stepped up to make it happen.”

The fundraising effort for the new track accumulated more than $385,000 from 260 donors to cover the $360,000 cost of the track. The track was installed by Beynon — a Tarkett Sports Company — out of Tualatin in the fall of 2017 and has been in use by the track team for practice since the start of the season.

The track is named in honor of Bob Julian Sr., who served as Ashland’s head coach in track from 1971-99 and still continues as meet director and official starter.

As with any such effort, there are too many participants to acknowledge at one time, but there were a few key contributors that helped spearhead fundraising and deserve mention among the numerous high school parents and community members who partnered with the Ashland Schools Foundation.

Kemper said the families of current sophomores E.J. Holland and twins Henry and Zach Williams were especially influential in the project. Neil and Elizabeth Holland as well as Jim and Janese Williams led the charge for the new track.

“It was something that the district at this point didn’t have the funding to be able to pull something like this off,” said Kemper, “and they had a bit of a sense of urgency to get it done with kids in high school and felt the need for the whole community.”

“Jim and Neil were like a dog with a bone,” he added. “They were just bound and determined to get a track for Ashland High School and the community as well. We would not have a new track today if it weren’t for the efforts of these two families.”

Bob Julian Sr. also was heavily involved in reaching out to alumni and community members to help fund the project, along with current head coach Hans Voskes, who is slowly and surely returning to form after major heart surgery earlier this year.

“We had a few anonymous large donors but Bob Sr. really used his connection within the Ashland track community to help seal the deal and finish the job,” said Kemper. “And Hans also was a powerful voice within the track community to get excitement about the track project and get people to pay attention and step up.”

Kemper also gave a lot of credit to the Ashland Schools Foundation and its executive director, Susan Bacon, for their expertise in securing the necessary funds. That same group was responsible for helping with the artificial turf installation and remodel of Walter A. Phillips Field at the high school.

The Ashland Schools Foundation sent a reminder that donations are still welcome as the facility is in need of additional improvements in field event areas and has a number of equipment needs.

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Speaking of new track and field amenities, the University of Oregon will be undergoing a massive reconstruction over the next two years at Hayward Field beginning in June as it prepares for the 2021 World Outdoor Championships in Eugene.

That renovation will force the Oregon School Activities Association to move its annual track and field state championships to an alternate site in the spring of 2019. This year’s meet in Eugene will go unaffected, and OSAA assistant executive director Brad Garrett has already gone on record that he anticipates the state championships will return to Hayward Field in 2020 since construction is expected to be completed.

Nick Daschel of the Oregonian put together a very informative piece on the one-year move brought on by the $200 million stadium remodel and, in it, he discussed the challenges that will take place in finding multiple sites to take on the task of hosting six state track meets over a three-day period.

Currently, Hayward Field is the only track facility in the state capable of handling such a sizable event, and Eugene is the only site that already boasts enough certified track and field officials to handle the demand of about 200 officials and volunteers needed to run the event.

All six classifications have held their state meets at Hayward Field since 2013, and 1978 was the last time the legendary site didn’t host at least one state track meet.

Potential alternative sites pointed out by Daschel included Mt. Hood Community College, Western Oregon University and Summit High School. The small school track meet was at Western Oregon from 1992-2012.

At least two sites and potentially three will be needed for 2019, with there always a possibility of bumping up some of the state track meets to run over two weekends to ease the burdens on the OSAA and the hosting site.

The OSAA expects to present a plan to its executive board in June.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@rosebudmedia.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry

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