Making the most of it

Published 7:53 pm Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Despite construction, teams hope to still practice on track


Construction of the new Hammer Field is well underway to try and be ready for the start of the fall sports season. Although many athletes and community members are hotly anticipating the new stadium, the boys’ and girls’ track and field teams have lost a portion of their practice space while the construction takes place.

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Starting the first week of April, the construction crews will take over about a 100-meter section of the northeast corner of the track as a way to access the infield. Crews will dig 5 to 6 feet down on the field, removing the dirt and replacing it with new systems and turf. The large dropoff will likely take away the inside two lanes due to safety concerns.

Despite all of the work, both teams plan to still practice on and around the track as much as they can.

“We need to have a space to practice,” said boys’ head coach Kevin Gentz. “It’s like if someone said you don’t have your classroom anymore. Well, tell me where I’m supposed to teach, then.

“We’re very thankful for what the city has done to be able to step up and give us what will be one of the nicest facilities in the Big Nine and the state of Minnesota. We’re grateful and we get the inconvenience, they’re part of what we need to deal with, but we can’t just walk away either. We’ve got to make use of what we can.”

Hammer Field construction has put the Albert Lea boys’ and girls’ track and field teams into the position of not having any home meets this season and working around construction in order to practice. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

The last-minute changes to practice plans are going to be some of the biggest challenges to work around, according to girls’ track and field head coach Jasmine Hansen. She said not knowing exactly where the construction crews will be working or what they are doing could throw a wrench into a few practices.

Gentz said he has been in contact with a couple members of the construction team, but their day-to-day schedule is still largely unknown.

While the circumstances are less than ideal, both coaches said they have plans in place to deal with the inconveniences.

“We’re going to try and be really creative,” Hansen said. “We want to make sure the kids are having fun and still getting a workout in at the same time. We’re going to use the track as long as we can. Maybe we only get the center lanes, but we’ll use what we can get so they can get exposed to the things you can’t get just running on the sidewalk.”

Gentz said the boys will likely have a few more pool workouts this season, as well as more time in the weightroom and running inside the high school. Worried about how the students were going to react to the changes of the season, Gentz said he was relieved when they showed heart and realized it was just something they were going to have to work through.

Even though the teams will not be able to host a meet this season and will have a significant portion of their practice area unavailable, both coaches are excited for the outcome.

“I’m so proud of this community for stepping up the way they have,” Gentz said. “Track seems to be most impacted, but we know that the end product is going to be worth the wait. The cool thing is we get to be a part of it, we get to watch it happen day by day. Just about everyone on the team, we only have a few seniors, will be able to reap the benefits.”

About Tyler Julson

Tyler Julson covers sports for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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