The new Verona Area High School will be one of a select few in the state to have an indoor track, but initial plans to host meets have been met by hurdles, as for now, the facility will be used just for practice.
The fieldhouse for the new indoor 160-meter multi-purpose urethane track, complete with pole vault and high jump pits, is a key part of the Verona Area School District’s $182 million referendum in April 2017 to build a new high school. It was the largest referendum in state history at the time.
Verona boys track coach Joff Pedretti said the initial vision was a 200-meter track that could host meets, with the potential to bring in a gross profit of $10,000 or more each weekend. However, he said the challenge in hosting indoor meets is the new flooring isn’t surfaced for track spikes, so athletes would have to run in flat training shoes instead of competition spikes.
Also, because of the reduced size of the track, the curves are at a much tighter angle, making it harder for runners to maintain control at faster speeds. He said a “combination of the two” raised his concerns about the safety of athletes in a competitive environment.
“For this reason, I now envision the facility as a place where we can practice and get ready for meets when it isn’t possible to be on the outdoor track,” Pedretti said.
VAHS athletic director Joel Zimba said hosting events at the new track is something that can be explored “down the road,” however. He said the biggest advantage of having the indoor track is it offers protection from the unpredictable weather in Wisconsin.
“As of now, the fieldhouse will be used for practices whenever the need arises,” Zimba said.
A typical indoor track is 200-meters, one-half the size of an outdoor track. The new indoor track at the fieldhouse is 20% smaller.
District superintendent Dean Gorrell said the track was 200 meters in one of the early iterations of the design of the fieldhouse, but was pared to 160 to reduce costs. He said it was one of several proposed items throughout the school that were “scaled down or eliminated.”
USA Track and Field and International Association of Athletics Federations, the governing body of track and field nationwide, both limit the length of spikes on indoor tracks to 6 mm. Gorrell said the surface of track is multipurpose so as to be compatible with the most number of uses like basketball and volleyball, which would be affected by spikes of any length.
“An indoor track surface that would permit the use of spikes would have a considerable texture to it and create potential injury issues for other uses such as volleyball and basketball,” he said, noting the new fieldhouse surface is the typical running/multi-sport surface used for similar high school tracks around the country.
VAHS student-athletes will benefit from the new track, Pedretti said, with the ability to pole vault indoors, and a sand pit for long jumpers and triple jumpers to practice landing safely inside during poor weather.
“Only a handful of schools in the area have this ability, so that is a big plus,” he said. “By being able to start these events earlier in the season, it will not only help those athletes perform better, it will also help them compete in their events more safely.”