The JDL Fast Track in Winston-Salem is ushering in a new era in indoor high school track and field in North Carolina.
The facility has scheduled indoor track meets throughout the winter, which will allow high school track athletes to compete more often. The facility has more than 10 indoor high school meets scheduled for the season, including an early-season meet Dec. 14.
“We are really excited that this facility has become available,” said Mark Dreibelbis, a N.C. High School Athletic Association assistant commissioner. “This will enable the sport to expand.”
For years the only indoor track facility in North Carolina was at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dreibelbis said UNC was an outstanding host for the championships, but the one facility had limited availability for high school competitions.
Teams had difficulty finding venues for competition.
For many teams the season consisted of a couple of indoor meets – including the NCHSAA championship – a trip to an out-of-state facility, competitions held outdoors, plus some national meets for the elite.
UNC’s Eddie Smith Field House was not available in 2011 because of renovations on campus, and there was no other facility available in the state. The NCHSAA held a winter track championship outdoors rather than hold an indoor track championship.
“Actually, the NCHSAA having to hold their championship outdoors was a factor in getting our facility built,” said Craig Longhurst, the facility director and a former East Wake High and Wake Forest University distance runner. “That demonstrated a great need.”
The JDL facility is larger and has more room for participants and spectators than the UNC facility, but another advantage of the new facility is the opportunity for indoor track athletes to compete in more regular-season meets.
Teams still will be allowed to hold meets outdoors using indoor distances and equipment, but there also will be more chances to compete indoors than ever before in North Carolina.
The new facility and a growth in indoor track participation were factors in the NCHSAA reclassifying indoor track this year so there will be a 1A/2A championship, a 3A championship and a 4A championship. The state finals will be Feb. 7-8.