Southeast Raleigh High School’s nationally known track and field program is losing use of its track until at least May 1, so athletes will practice at Garner High School amid the construction work going on there.
With indoor track season about to start, the track at Southeast Raleigh has been declared unsafe, with repairs not expected to be completed until spring, when outdoor track season is well underway. Track supporters say the way things are being handled will hurt the athletes and shows a lack of respect for the championship program.
“You have seniors who are looking for scholarships,” said Nita Fletcher, whose daughter Sierra is on Southeast Raleigh’s track team. “With Southeast being known for its track program, we felt they were being done an injustice.”
But Wake school officials say they’re trying to make the best of the situation.
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Southeast Raleigh has won at least 13 state track and field championships since the school opened in 1997. Southeast Raleigh’s girls indoor and outdoor track teams both won state 4A championships this year.
“At the state level, they’re pretty dominant,” said Jason Creasy of NCRunners.com, a website that covers high school track. “On the national stage, they’re putting up All-Americans.”
Despite the on-field success, the program has been dogged by multiple issues with the track. It was resurfaced in 2013, but problems were found and repairs were made in 2014. Matt Dees, a Wake County schools spokesman, said the 2014 repairs were defective and that irregularities in the surface of the track began to develop.
“After the 2016 spring track season, it was determined that further use of the track would present a safety risk to athletes, and the use of the existing track was discontinued,” Dees said.
Work on rebuilding the track is expected to begin Nov. 7, but Dees said the replacement rubberized surface needs to be installed during warm-weather months.
School officials explained the plan to hold after-school practices at Garner High at a Monday community meeting. Garner High’s students and staff have been relocated to South Garner High while the Garner High campus is rebuilt, but Dees said the track is available for use.
Wake will have a bus transport track athletes to and from Garner High. There will also be parking at Garner High.
The disruption, particularly for seniors who are hoping to do well this school year to impress college recruiters to get scholarships, is a concern.
“They’re not happy,” said track parent Mike Fletcher, Nita Fletcher’s husband. “It’s like moving you from your home and asking you to stay at somebody else’s house. There’s nothing like being at your own school.”
Mike Fletcher also said that holding the practices off-campus could cause problems. Track members who have other after-school activities may not be able to make practices if they miss the bus.
The construction taking place at Garner High is also a concern. Nita Fletcher drove to Garner High on Wednesday, tweeting photos of the activity going on around the track.
“That is a construction site right now,” Nita Fletcher said. “A lot of the parents are unhappy with that decision to practice there because it’s a hazardous construction site.”
Dees said there shouldn’t be safety issues for the athletes to practice at Garner High. But he said if a better site can be found then the teams may practice elsewhere.
Mike Fletcher said that if Wake had notified the families sooner, they could have helped locate alternative practice sites. But Dees said that with track tryouts and practices not starting until Oct. 31, parents were notified once details were final.
Darrell Smith, whose son David is on Southeast Raleigh’s track team, said the situation is “disheartening.” But he said the students will have to rise to the occasion.
“It’s a little obstacle,” Smith said. “It may affect them. You always keep the flag raised high and charge forward.”