The once in a decade opportunity for John Carroll University to host the Ohio Athletic Conference track and field championships has slipped through the University’s fingers.
The meet, originally scheduled to be held at JCU on May 11 and 12, has been moved to the track of OAC rival Baldwin-Wallace. Because there are ten teams in the OAC, it will likely be ten years before JCU will have a chance to host again.
Concern about the condition of the jumper’s runway was the primary reason varsity track coach Mark McClure recommended the meet change venues. Heaving under the surface has caused the runway to become uneven.
“Visually, the track doesn’t look like it’s in that bad of shape. But, there are lots of bumps out there,” McClure said.
The track has suffered from heaving and parts of its surface are deteriorating from the Cleveland winter.
“We probably have the nicest setup for having a championship track meet. Everything is in place, we just need a new track surface,” he said.
Safety of the athletes was the primary reason McClure recommended the move. Though he admits the chances of an athlete being injured because of the track were low, it was not a risk he was willing to take. He also did not want JCU to be known throughout the OAC as the team with faulty facilities.
In 2005, JCU traded a chance to hold the OACs with Mount Union on the belief that the track would be redone before this year’s championships.
McClure said that the condition of the track and the jumper’s runway have been an issue since he arrived at JCU in 2003.
“If we want to compete for students, the little things make a difference,” he said.
In 2004, a top layer was sprayed to help even the track for the International Children’s Games held at JCU. This proved only to provide temporary relief to the problem.
“Since we don’t have an indoor track, we should have a really nice outdoor track,” said McClure.
JCU is one of only four teams in the OAC that doesn’t have an indoor track. The other three, Muskingum, Heidelberg and Wilmington, all are in the process of looking into building one, according to McClure.
“It’s a matter of priorities,” said Vice President of Student Affairs Patrick Rombalski. “We only have so much money to fix stuff.”
JCU’s financial troubles, including a $2.7 million budget cut last year, haven’t left room for major renovations.
Three companies gave JCU an estimate on the price of fixing the track, with the highest being over $35,000 for a complete overhaul, according to Athletic Director Laurie Massa.
Massa said she has been aware of the problem, but an opportunity to fix the track has yet to present itself.
“It just became something that was a little too risky,” she said.
Making the necessary repairs would mean tearing up the track and jumper’s runway. Because of the snow that continued into Easter, it is unlikely the project would have been completed by the time of the competition.
“It came to a decision based on the students having more time to utilize the facility,” Massa said.
Instead, fixing the track will most likely be part of a larger project that includes replacing the turf on the football field. The life expectancy of both is no more than four more years.
“I think it’s kind of embarrassing that we’re scheduled to have a meet here and we can’t because our runways are uneven,” said Raj Arasu, sophomore member of the track and field team.