What people at American think about the track

Alvin Gonzales

Staff Writer

     When it’s dry, it’s slippery. When it rains, it’s slippery and muddy. When you run on it, you might run into a pothole. When it’s windy or when a group of people run on it, there’s dust everywhere. Whatever the weather conditions are, the condition of American’s track and field are still subpar, according to some students and staff here at American.

     “I’ve been coaching track on a volunteer basis and as the head coach for over 18 years at AHS. We have always had subpar facilities,” stated Mr. Lindsay, a teacher and track coach at American. Our dirt track is basically concrete with a thin layer of dirt on top. It is not a safe place to have high quality training.” 

     One of AHS’ Athletic Directors, Brian Hashimoto, has a word or two to say about the problems with the track.

     “I started coaching at American back in 2002 and the track was not in any better shape then than it is now. It’s about exactly what you would expect from a dirt track that sees minimal maintenance and care. I do recall them using the track for meets way back, but I don’t remember how long that went on until Tak Fudenna Stadium was upgraded to an all-weather track and turf field,” Hashimoto nostalgically reflects back upon.

     Not only do staff at American have a say on the meagerly maintained track and field, but so does Raymond Tsui (11), a student-athlete on the track team.

Raymond Tsui (11), a student-athlete on AHS’ track and field team, sprinting to the finish line for the 100m dash.

     “In comparison to other tracks, like [James Logan High School’s] and Tak [Fudenna Memorial Stadium], [our track] is basically dirt and sand. It’s really hard to run on, you slip, it’s poorly maintained, and every day we have to walk like thirty minutes or take the bus to Tak to train. We do this every day and it gets really annoying. So if American gets a renovation on its track, then it’ll be really good,” Tsui complains passionately.

     When Lindsay was asked about construction plans for the track and field, he responded with a combination of contrasting emotions.

     “There is currently nothing that I know of. The last bond that was passed was for non-athletic buildings and school improvements. I think the only way our district would ever be able to upgrade our athletic facilities is through a bond. Sadly, this would be years in the future and it would require Fremont voters to pass the bond. In my opinion, there doesn’t seem to be any urgency among Fremont voters to pass a bond for athletics. Again, that is just my opinion and I hope I’m incorrect. A bond could happen because in the past few years, San Lorenzo and Hayward have passed bonds and all of their high schools now have all-weather tracks and improved stadium facilities,” Lindsay said with a mix of high hopes and low expectations.

     When asked about news of any recent renovation plans for the track and field, Hashimoto was able to reveal some information shared by the department of the FUSD in charge of maintaining and renovating school grounds.

     “There are no current plans to improve any athletic facility at any school in Fremont as far as I am aware. I work closely with the district’s Operations and Grounds department and I know they are doing the best they can with the resources that they have at their disposal, so for the time being, we will have to get by with how we are currently operating.”

With no recent news of AHS’ track and field receiving any major improvements, students and even staff will only continue to talk about and even face its problems and possible injuries; Lindsay is one of the most passionate—almost forever-seeking for a safer track for the school.

     “Our poor facilities have led to many more injuries than if we were practicing on a quality surface. My thoughts have been, and are currently, how could a district like Fremont Unified have such poor facilities? If our gym was in the same shape as our track, it would be fixed immediately. It all comes down to money and our district never has any, nor have they made plans to save for better facilities for athletics. I would challenge anyone to find another school district in California or in the country that has five schools sharing one stadium for football, soccer, and track. It is simply unacceptable. With a budget crisis and many other problems our district is facing, it appears that there will never be any major improvements to athletic facilities,” Lindsay purposefully claims.

     Hashimoto, himself, has had his own personal experiences with the maintenance of the current track and field that he would like to share.

     “I have used the track myself when I was coaching baseball. It is a very hard surface and difficult to get traction with very little topsoil after long periods without water. However, during the rainy season, because there is no drainage, the water pools on the surface and creates muddy, swampy areas that become difficult to dry out afterwards. Additionally, because it is an open facility, anyone who walks or rides their bike over those muddy areas leaves footprints/tire tracks in the surface when it eventually dries out. It then becomes difficult to smooth out the uneven surface when it returns to its normal state,” Hashimoto explained.

     The current track and field, according to Tsui, can be really dangerous no matter the type of weather it faces.

     “It gets really dangerous when it rains and when it gets hot and dry,” claims Tsui. Normally, [the weather,] doesn’t really affect you that much, but in track and field, we’ve seen people slip during their starts just from running fast; you just slip on the sand because there’s actually nothing to grip on when the track is dry. I have slipped so many times I can’t even take count of it. Some of [those times] are in the muddy ground, some of them are in dry areas, and when I slip there’s going to be some kind of hip injury because the sand is coarse. … When you fall, the sand makes it ten times worse.”

     With more complaints about the track and field at American, is Tsui, who can continue even longer.

      “The giant potholes, the really giant holes in the field, I’ve sprained my ankle several times on it. Also… the track is kind of bad because [the track team] can’t use [their] spikes or any starting block on it because it’s just sand and everything. If you look at a normal track, they have this rubber coating that actually lets you use your spikes on it, so we can’t actually train properly at American’s track and field,” Tsui adds.

     Since the sandy track at American does not allow for people to properly run on it and the field is filled with giant potholes that hurt people’s ankles, Lindsay, being the head track and field coach at AHS, is more than deserving to make a remark about this.

     “The major area that needs fixing is the track itself. An All-weather track capable of hosting track meets would be the best “fix”. Although, if we want to get greedy, an actual stadium with an all-weather track and football/soccer field would be the ultimate fix. The next best fix for the Track team would be an all-weather surface to practice on. It would be fantastic to have a four to six lane practice-track. The entire reason we travel to Tak stadium three to five days a week is so that our student-athletes can have a safe surface to run on. At AHS we can’t even wear spikes on our track because it would cause even more injuries due to the rocks that are prevalent,” Lindsay explained.

     Since students at American have always been facing these sorts of problems with the track and field, Hashimoto says that students have just had to accept this harsh truth.

     “We do not generally receive too many complaints about our track, since everyone already knows that it isn’t in the best of shape. Rather, we do receive complaints about the overcrowded nature of Tak as well as having to travel to Washington High School, where Tak is located, in order to even practice. Because our track facility, as well as everyone else’s in Fremont is not suited for track practice, all five high schools have to share that one facility for track and field practices. The track coaches for all five high schools do a phenomenal job of sharing the facility and making a schedule that works for each school’s athletes, but that takes time and one aspect of Coach Lindsay’s job that goes unnoticed,” Hashimoto remarked.

     Continuing on with the ways that the track and field affects the way that people use it, is Tsui.

     “The slipping issue doesn’t just apply to the track team. Soccer people, marching band people, and people during P.E. use the track and field. I’ve personally seen people sprain their [ankles] because it was so slippery. … Also when the wind kicks in, the sand blows everywhere,” Tsui puts into perspective.

     With this major issue that people at American are facing because of the track and field’s condition, Lindsay has discovered ways to do something about it.

     “Three years ago all of the MVAL coaches took a group of parents and athletes to a school board meeting to discuss our poor facilities. Many of the issues I’ve talked about were brought up at the meeting. Our message to the board did not seem to be taken seriously and nothing positive came out of the meeting. Our new Superintendent may be more approachable and understanding of the problems we face, but obviously this isn’t the time to ask for new facilities. I would like to inform him of the issues we face with practicing at Tak, four schools at a time with several hundred athletes occupying the track at any one time. … I could literally talk about this for days because there are so many inequities for the schools that have to travel to Tak to practice, play games, and even graduate,” Lindsay reveals.

     With such an unrushed solution to a long-lasting problem, that is the track and field at American, all Lindsay can do for now is wish for stronger and more plentiful support from the AHS and Fremont community.

     “The only way anything will get done is if the parents fight for it. The district won’t listen to coaches—at least they haven’t in the past. Mission San Jose was able to get a new pool a few years ago almost exclusively due to the parents demanding one from the district. It took a long time but they finally got one,” concluded Lindsay.

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