Year two of North Carolina's new indoor track brings facility improvements and a full slate of meets, including a partnership with NCRunners.
Fans and athletes who visited the JDL Fast Track in Winston-Salem last winter could see that, while it was already the nicest indoor track facility in the state, there was still potential for improvement. This winter, that potential will come much closer to reality through a combination of facility upgrades and a greatly expanded schdule with some exciting new meet ideas. I sat down with Craig Longhurst, the facility director, this week and got the story on all the plans, including a partnership with NCRunners that extends to two of the high school meets.
New Schedule Comes Together
The 2012-2013 season at the JDL Fast Track will begin on December 8th with a high school kick-off meet, which will have lower per-athlete entry fees than the major invitationals at the facility. Unattached athletes will not be allowed at the meet, as it will focus on team entries instead. December will close with the NCRunners Elite Holiday Invitational, which will include a complete schedule of high-school events plus a small number of invitation-only Elite events. The second group of events will use the distances from New Balance Indoor Nationals, such as the 60, 400, and mile, and we hope to attract the best talent in the Southeast for those races. Unattached athletes will be welcome at this meet. There will be more information about this meet, including event details and a preliminary schedule, in the last summer or early fall.
The schedule really gets busy in January, beginning with two interesting and unique meet ideas. First, the JDL will host a series of three "mini-invitationals" in one weekend, Friday 1/11 - Saturday 1/12. This will create a short, quick meet format and allow each school to decide which time frame best suits them. There will be one meet on Friday evening, one starting Saturday morning, and one starting mid-afternoon Saturday, and teams can only enter one of the meets. This meet will again focus on team entries, and unattached athlete will not be accepted. This will be followed by another fun and different meet format: the County Clash, to be held on Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday holiday. That makes it a Monday meet, which will be unusual in and of itself, but the County Clash has another neat feature: it will be limited to athletes from Forsyth and Guilford counties this year, and scoring will be done county vs. county for early-season bragging rights. Mee management hopes to expand the meet to include teams from other counties around the state, and perhaps even entire regions of the state, in future years.
The major invitational in late January will remain on the same weekend as last year, but will include one major change. In addition to a full slate of regular high-school events, the meet will also feature the first-ever Indoor Frosh/Soph Invitational. There will be a complete schedule of events reserved specifically for 9th- and 10th-grade athletes, with lower per-athlete entry fees for those "Frosh/Soph" events. This meet will be held on January 25th and 26th, and unattached athletes will be allowed to participate. Again, more details on the Frosh/Soph Invitational will be coming in the next few months.
Of course, unless you've been hiding, you're probably aware that the NCHSAA has agreed to hold the state championships at the JDL Fast Track on Saturday, February 9th. This will be followed by a last chance nationals qualifier on the weekend of 2/16, which will be a two-day combined college and high school meet.
Facility Improvements Planned
The ownership of the JDL Fast Track has planned some improvements to the facility that should make a positive impact for both spectators and athletes. First, they plan to add bleachers and increase seating capacity. Likely locations for new seats include one more set near the finish line, plus the corners of the second turn and the space along the outside of the back stretch (in view of the long & triple jump areas). Second, extra starting blocks and hurdles will be available to the athletes in the warm-up area to facilitate their preparation. In the long term, the entire warm-up area will be moved closer to the wall, and there will be greater separation between spectators and athletes warming up. Improvements such as increased bathroom capacity and possibly even some athlete changing rooms (near the warm-up area) are also in the works.