GMC Prep track and field athletes won’t have to go so far for practice starting next school year.
The school broke ground on a new track facility Tuesday that is set to cost around $1 million, according to GMC VP for Engineering Jeff Gray. He added that the track should be ready to run on by the time students return for school in August.
Members of the prep school track team have become accustomed to driving or riding over to the Baldwin County Recreation Department’s track/soccer complex located off of Highway 212 to attend practice. Next season they can look forward to simply walking to practice as the track will orbit one of the two existing football practice fields located adjacent to the Parnell Ruark athletic building.
“We have been talking about this for a long time… Now that we’re actually doing it, it’s super exciting,” GMC Prep Athletic Director Allen Simmons said. “Not only for us as coaches and faculty members, but really for the kids. They have somewhere on-campus where they can train and get better.”
Simmons believes that the move from the county track facility to the new on-campus one will increase participation in the spring sport.
“It probably took some kids away from track — the inability to get out there,” he said of the 212 complex. “Now that the track will be on-campus they can walk down here after school. I think our track program’s going to go and get bigger and better over time.”
GMC Prep has enjoyed decent track success in recent years, including back-to-back girls team state championships in 2015 and 2016. This year Class of 2021 senior De’Aisha Stephens won individual state titles in both the 800-meter and the long jump. The boys program last got a team state title in 1988.
The GMC track will have eight lanes and space for every field event has been incorporated into the design as have bleachers. There is already some lighting down at the practice fields, but more is being added as part of the construction so students may use the facility both after dark and early in the morning. That early crowd will mostly be made up of the junior college corps of cadets as they get their morning PT in at the start of their day. While the track certainly opens the door for the junior college athletic department to add men’s and/or women’s track, GMC JC Athletic Director Rob Manchester shared that an expansion is not imminent.
“There's been some hints at it, but nothing that’s come to fruition yet,” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if maybe they do later on down the road.”
Construction on the athletic addition is beginning immediately.
This marks the second straight year the school is making a significant investment in athletics. Last summer the gymnasium floor inside the Cordell Events Center was replaced to a tune of about $100,000.