College track meets on horizon
New shot, discus area meets NCAA specifications
Collegiate track and field is coming to Grand Junction.
Technically, the sport is already at Colorado Mesa University, but thanks to a renovated throws area, the Lincoln Park Sports Complex now meets the NCAA requirements for shot put and discus events.
CMU Athletic Director Tom Spicer, who has been on the job for right at one year, said the plan to eventually host collegiate track and field meets was in place before he arrived.
“It was already in the master plan,” he said. “If you are going to have programs like we have (indoor and outdoor track and field), you need the facilities.
“We took a look at the throws area that needed to be upgraded anyway. We just made sure it met the specifications of District 51 and collegiate standards.”
CMU will host two track and field invitationals in 2015, then Spicer hopes CMU will host the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Track and Field Championships in the spring of 2016.
Tony Music is a Central graduate who was one of the best shot and discus throwers to ever compete in the region. At a recent high school meet, Music, who is now an assistant coach with the Delta track and field team, said it will be great to see collegiate track and field come to Grand Junction.
“To be honest, I can’t believe it took them this long to get collegiate track and field here,” he said. “To me, it’s been a waste all these years not having collegiate (events) here.”
Rob Schoeber, director of Grand Junction parks and recreation, said the renovations to the throws area cost $53,000, and another $14,000 will be spent on fencing around the throwers area.
The money came from the Parks Improvement Advisory Board, which is made up of representatives from Grand Junction Baseball Inc., which runs the Junior College World Series, CMU, Mesa County, the City of Grand Junction and School District 51.
Schoeber said the five entities pay dues to be part of the board, and the money that builds up over time is spent on projects that benefit the community.
“The project for the track improvement appealed to such a large number of user groups, (the board) was very favorable in getting it done,” Schoeber said.
Another piece of the puzzle to meet collegiate track and field standards was finished in 2013 when the Stocker Stadium running track was resurfaced.
Because some collegiate events have slightly different requirements than high school events, collegiate lines and markings were included on the track when they finished the resurfacing project.
Schoeber said the resurfacing project cost $88,700 and was funded through the city’s general fund.
Even with meeting the collegiate requirements on the track and throwers area, CMU needed to have pole vaulting, javelin and steeplechase facilities.
Spicer said an area next to the throwers area can accommodate the javelin event.
The steeplechase course and pole vault will be held at Grand Junction High School, which has those facilities. The steeplechase is an obstacle-course-type race with one water obstacle and large barriers to jump over.
District 51 Athletic Director Paul Cain said the facilities at GJHS were put in about five years ago when that track was resurfaced, and they were paid for by CMU. He said it has been a win-win for both parties.
“It’s an example of the good partnership between the school district and Colorado Mesa,” he said.
The water obstacle is at the north end of the track but isn’t part of the running track. Instead, that part of the steeplechase course cuts slightly into the infield.
The CMU track team practices at the high school track in the morning.
Schoeber said there is a possibility of adding a pole vault area and steeplechase course at Stocker Stadium in the future.
Oddly enough, even with a pole vault area at the high school, the school district doesn’t allow its track and field athletes to participate in the event.
Cain said the reason is based on a combination of high cost, liability issues and the necessity of certified coaching.
Spicer said it just made sense to have the appropriate facilities that meet collegiate standards.
“If we are going to recruit athletes, we obviously need to have proper facilities to have that happen,” Spicer said.
Spicer added CMU currently has the coaching infrastructure in place to field a competitive track and field team. Securing more resources for scholarships is what the university will address next, he said, adding the goal is to have a CMU track and field program that can compete with longtime powerful RMAC programs Adams State and Western State.
As far as hosting collegiate events, Spicer said it should be something the entire community will appreciate.
“I think it would be something that everyone would be interested to come out and enjoy,” he said.