Rootstown track facility added to football stadium

In his 39 years of training, Larry Bailey of Rootstown has accumulated a special list of numbers.

94 status qualifiers.

33 All Ohioans.

Four state champions and seven state runners-up.

210 boys follow the victories in double competition.

478 cross-country victories in double competition.

On a personal level, he has run over 51,500 miles in his lifetime.

Something was missing, however, for the longtime Rovers mentor.

A track.

For nearly 13 years, Rovers’ athletics program was without a home track.

Rootstown held a final meeting on April 29, 2009.

That changed last month when Rovers hosted Ravenna and Streetsboro on March 30 at its brand new all-weather track which was first unveiled in the fall following an April 28, 2021 grand opening.

The 13-year race to get there, however, was fraught with hurdles and admittedly never seemed to happen.

However, what began as a seemingly overwhelming goal became a reality through discipline and patient perseverance.

Maybe even a bit of good-natured stubbornness and most certainly a lot of hard work from countless community members.

All-weather track comes true in Rootstown

Ground was broken for the new track at Robert C. Dunn Stadium in Rootstown on April 28 and completion is expected by August 2021. Preparing for the start of the project are, from left, athletic director Keith Waesch, Boys Track Coach Larry Bailey, Girls Track Coach Kyle Rodstrom, Foundation Chairman Denny Pickens, Superintendent Andrew Hawkins, School Board Chairman Craig Mullaly and Sports Boosters Chairman Al Marzec.

The idea of ​​an all-weather track dates back to August 2005 when Dale Hluch initiated the creation of the Rootstown Foundation and Alumni Association after seeing a “mom trying to push her baby down the track in a stroller and struggling in the mud ,” according to Rootstown alumni, coach and current Foundation President Denny Pickens.

Hluch’s idea centered around the idea of ​​creating an organization that would focus on improving facilities in the district, while creating positive opportunities for students in the community.

While the all-weather track was a focal point, the foundation also worked to raise funds for a new set of bleachers on the visitors’ side of Robert C. Dunn Field and also awarded 13 scholarships to Rootstown graduates.

The cost of the eight-lane all-weather track and its field event zone coordination updates was approximately $337,000. The project was funded two-thirds jointly by the foundation and Rootstown Sports Boosters and one-third by the district using permanent improvement funds (none of the funds donated by the district came from operating funds).

“I am very grateful to the sports leaders and the school board for their participation in the realization of the project,” said Pickens. “I never expected to see the boosters tapping into the money they have raised over the years and making such a contribution. Al Marzec has been very instrumental in rejuvenating the fundraising and the cooperation between all organizations to push this thing to the finish line. It’s more than a track for the team, it’s a classroom, a community event venue and a source of pride We, the Rootstown community, did that.

Without a track, Rootstown athletes had to train creatively

Rootstown's Mark Urchek, right, leads a race on the old Rootstown track in this undated photo.

Although there was no track, Rootstown boys’ and girls’ track programs had to be creative in their training.

Some of them probably wouldn’t be in training manuals, but they worked.

Quite simply, they had to because the options were limited or didn’t exist.

Rootstown runners could often be seen running on the pavements of Tallmadge Road or on the grass around the campus perimeter.

For long distance training, Bailey would take runners to Towner’s Woods or Mogadore Reservoir. For on-court events or running relays, or for hosting “at-home” meets, Rootstown would borrow or rent space free of charge from facilities in the neighboring district.

And, other times, Rootstown would be forced to use the parking lot bus lane.

“We would close the gate in front of the college for security reasons to keep cars out,” Rodstrom said, “and we would put up cones. That’s what we had to do, but we’re lucky to to have kids who want to work hard and that was really their goal and not the situation.

Despite the less than ideal adaptations, Rovers’ success story has held on.

Adding to Bailey’s list of student-athlete accomplishments, 15th-year women’s track and field head coach Kyle Rodstrom began her own legacy.

The Rootstown girls won their first league title in 2016 and then followed with additional titles in 2019 and 2021.

Rodstrom had 35 state qualifiers, 18 All-Ohioans and one state qualifier for 13 consecutive seasons.

The history of the Rootstown track dates back to 1958 with the construction of the football stadium

Rootstown’s track history dates back to 1958 when the district purchased land to build the football stadium.

The community, led by the Rootstown Stadium Club and its president Ward Davis (the high school building’s namesake and longtime school board chairman), began building the stadium in 1960, and a grand opening was made on November 3. 1961.

At the time, it was one of the only floodlit stadiums in Portage County.

Davis helped create the dedication tagline, “The story of how UNITY in a commUNITY made work.”

The first girls’ league track and field meet was held in May 1971, which was also the first year the district included women’s track and field in the opportunity to earn college letters.

Rootstown stopped using the track in 2009 for practice and home meets due to its deteriorated condition.

A common misconception is that cinder tracks are illegal, which is not true. The reality is that the track was unsuitable for use and it was also a financial burden as it would cost more to line the track for home competitions than to transport athletes to all-weather tracks for training appropriate, according to Bailey.

At various times and for various events, Rootstown would use the Field and Ravenna facilities.

“We owe a sincere thank you to Field and Ravenna. To the leaders of these districts, their athletic directors and coaches,” Rootstown Athletic Director Keith Waesch said.

Construction of a new track in Rootstown shows what a tight-knit community can do when they come together

Rootstown’s resounding shared voice echoes the appreciation.

From the coaches to the sports department to the leaders of the foundation.

“To say the least, I’m overwhelmed with how it turned out,” Pickens said. “Come on board as [Rootstown Foundation and Alumni Association] starting out as vice president and ending as president, I want to be sure that the Hluch family and their deceit are recognized and will be remembered forever.

For Bailey, it’s still hard to believe.

“I’ve never asked for this. I’ve never made requests for an all-weather track, but sometimes I have to pinch myself that it’s real,” he said. of the situation we have had in the past, but it is really something special. It’s an exciting thing for the children and the community.

For Rodstrom, he knows his athletes will come to understand over time just how special this all is.

“I think they’ll feel the weight and understand the value later in life,” he said. “What it does, however, is reinforce what a tight-knit community can do when it comes together. Rootstown wants its children to succeed in everything they do and the community comes together for that. They are always there for each other. »

For Waesch, it is the culmination of a patient project.

“We owe a huge debt of gratitude to every hard-working person who helped make this dream a reality,” he said.

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