After years of competing in an aging, worn-down facility, the Cal Poly track and field team christened the team’s revamped complex.
The track and field athletes competed for the first time on the new track during the Cal Poly ShareSLO Invitational March 24. It was also alumni weekend for the team so both current and former members of the track and field team got the chance to share the experience.
Senior sprints runner Liam Martinez said he is grateful for what the new facilities bring to the team.
“It’s fortunate that we were able to get [the track] done this year,” Martinez said. “It’s been a great help in terms of training and injury prevention.”
Junior javelin thrower Megan Mooney also had strong feelings about the condition of the old track.
“The old track was terrible for a javelin thrower,” Mooney said. “When I came back to school in Fall 2016, I was in tears because at the end of our javelin runway we had weeds growing. The track was so torn up plants could grow. The runway was less than ideal and it was disappointing. It was hard to feel proud and supported when our facility was lacking the necessary qualities for a strong team to grow.”
Due to the wear and tear on the track which created a very hard surface, many athletes were seeing injuries such as knee issues and shin splints arising.
The new track has improved training conditions, Martinez said.
“With the new facility, the rubber that is laid on there has more cushion to it so it’s helped with knee, ankles and shin splints,” Martinez said. “We’ve definitely seen a decrease in those injuries throughout the whole team. Season after season three-quarters of the team [had] shin splints just from how hard that surface had become.”
Mooney also confirmed that the state of the track was the cause of many injuries.
“It was the equivalent of running on concrete,” Mooney said. “That is really aggressive and taxing on the body, and there would always be a part of the season when everyone would have shin splints or hamstring issues. We put a lot of force [on] our feet and having a surface that didn’t give bounce back put the force back into our legs.”
Not only did the track affect the athletes’ health, it also affected their race times and recruiting efforts for the program.
“At some of our meets that were held here, we weren’t seeing as great of times because the rubber itself wasn’t a great surface to be competing on,” Martinez said.
In addition to this, the new track also helps prepare the athletes to compete on similar surfaces that they would see at other schools’ facilities.
Both Martinez and Mooney agreed that the new track can only help build a stronger, more competitive track and field program.
“I think [the track] will help tenfold [with bringing] in recruits,” Mooney said. “Many of our athletes would talk about how many other programs we visited that had nicer facilities, but now those conversations have stopped since we have a beautiful track. Recruits want to have the best and now we are up with the best.”
Ground broke on the project in July 2017 and the completed project was dedicated March 24 of this year. It was named the Steve Miller Track after the former Cal Poly track and field coach. Miller is a five-time national championship-winning head coach and served as the chairman of the Board of Directors for USA Track & Field since 2015.
In addition to his decorated coaching history, Miller is also a Cal Poly alumnus. As a Mustang, he was named an All-American in 1978.
The track program at Cal Poly has produced 11 Olympians since 1968 and 72 All-Americans. The team has won 13 team NCAA titles as well as 96 individual titles.
“I love the new track. It is probably my favorite gift I have ever received. It has boosted the confidence of our whole program because it showed us that people support us and we aren’t a forgotten team in our athletic program,” Mooney said. “Going out to the track is my favorite part of the day but it’s even better walking out to the new facility. I am just thankful and grateful for what our team has been gifted.”