Westmont Track & Field steps into new era

The Westmont track and field community spanning six decades gathered on Saturday afternoon for the inaugural meet of the refurbished Westmont Track. Dignitaries included Westmont President Gayle Beebe, former Westmont head coaches Jim Klein and Steven Hughes and former Point Loma Nazarene head coach Jim Crakes.

Russell Smelley, who is in his thirty-second year as Westmont’s head coach, was pleased to introduce Coach Bill Jordan from the University of Richmond. Smelley described his former coach as, “having the very significant impact on the development of my own character when I was a student-athlete at Richmond.”

Westmont alumnus Dennis Savage (1970), who still holds the Westmont record for the mile (4:00.84), opened the ceremony by telling of the many Olympians and other track and field elite who had run upon the old track which was now “buried five feet under the new track.”

Dr. Beebe welcomed those assembled and saluted the dedication of Smelley in nurturing and developing young men and women over a period of more than three decades. Klein, who served as coach from 1960-76, spoke of the development of the track from a plain grass field, to a dirt and rock surface with wood boarders, to a clay track with cement boards. When UCSB built the first all-weather track in the region, Westmont was the recipient of the crushed brick material which was placed atop the clay surface.

That track stood until a little less than two years ago when it was closed for construction that eventually produced the track that was opened today. The facility includes a 400 meter, eight-lane all-whether track, two shot put pits, two javelin runs, two long jump/triple jump lanes and pits, two discus cages, a high jump pit and a pole vault pit.

The natural grass infield will become the playing surface for the Westmont men’s and women’s soccer teams beginning this fall.

Also included in the facility is a terraced seating area with wide grassy ledges where fans can stretch out and enjoy a meet or game. A track house contains a scorer’s room and restrooms. A new digital display located above the track house will provide real-time scoring information for fans.

After a prayer of dedication by Crakes and the national anthem sung by Katie Fritzke, a junior distance runner, and her mother, Gina Fritzke, Coach Jordan was called upon to fire a starter’s pistol to start the crowd on a walk around the track in a ceremonial first lap.

Following the festivities, the Celebration Meet was held between Westmont, Biola, Fresno Pacific and George Fox (Ore.). The men’s competition was very close with the Westmont men winning the event by one point over Fresno Pacific (182-181). Biola took third place with 132.5 while George Fox scored 110.5.

The women’s competition was even tighter with only 31.5 points separating all four teams. Fresno Pacific won the meet with 163 points, just ahead of Westmont with 154 points. Biola posted 151.5 points while George Fox notched 131.5.

Westmont’s Brent Legace posted a mark of 63.00m (206-08) in the men’s javelin to set a new school record and earn an automatic qualification to the NAIA Outdoor National Track and Field Championships. Andrew Kolodinski also recorded an automatic qualification mark in the event, throwing for 60.82m (199-06). Jacob Goodin posted a provisional qualifying time of 3:57.58 in the 1500m.

On the women’s side, Sarah-Lyn Bernard earned a provisional qualification in the 200m with a time of 25.29.

In four weeks time, Westmont Track will host the two-day Golden State Athletic Conference Championships. Scheduled for Friday and Saturday, April 23-24, the event will feature teams from nine different schools with athletes vying for a conference championship and all-GSAC titles.