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The Village Blacksmith

Fri, Jul 13th, 2001
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Peterson man works unusual job as a farrierBy Bonnie Prinsen
Monday, July 16, 2001

This Friday, Rushford-Petersons new state-of-the-art running track will be dedicated in a ceremony set to begin at 7:00 p.m. The event celebrates the completion of a project some would say is a remarkable example of fund raising and teamwork.

Shortly after Rushford and Peterson school districts consolidated about ten years ago, a Booster Club was formed by local citizens to provide support for school and community projects that would benefit area students. While moral support is always appreciated, it is the financial support of the Booster Club that is essential in this era of dwindling school finances.

"It was a very ambitious group," says track coach and faculty member Gary Wade about the Booster Club. The club decided that one of its first big projects would be a new running track. Wade did some research and found that most running tracks were funded almost entirely by school districts with very small donations from communities. But for a number of reasons, Wade and the others knew that it "wasnt going to happen that way here."

Though the school district contributed some funds for the final stage of the project, the bleachers, the rest of the approximately $400,000 project was funded by corporate and community donations, in the forms of money, labor and materials.

The Booster Club was initially able to put $100,000 toward the project. In December, 1999, the Booster Club and newly formed Track Committee, of which Wade was president, sent out brochures to area residents and businesses, asking for donations.

"By February, we had another $100,000," says Wade, which basically allowed for the completion of all but the bleachers.

Wade credits fellow Track Committee member Tom Kopperud with coordinating the project.

"He (Kopperud) went out and got some hard figures for the project," Wade says. "And he continued to fund raise throughout." According to Wade, Kopperud, of Normans Electric, acted as over-seer for the project, coordinating donations of labor, materials, and the scheduling of construction.

"We had money coming in from corporations like Ace Telephone, Coke and Pepsi, all the way to people in the community who might give $100 to $500," Wade says. "I remember getting $10 from someone in the nursing home who said This track is just a wonderful ideathis is all I have to give. Thats what really makes this project specialeveryone contributed."

The track surrounds the football field on the north side of town, next to the baseball fields and Creekside Park. It consists of eight lanes coated in a cushion of polyurethane. There is also a sizable area dedicated to field events such as long jump, triple jump, pole vault, shot put, and discus. The final touch to the project was the construction of bleachers capable of seating up to 700 people.

The bleachers, situated at the 50-yard line of the football field, were constructed so that spectators at a track meet could easily view the whole running track as well as the field event area.

"When you sit in those bleachers, you can see everything," says Wade.

The track is also home to a new, three-story "crows nest". The bottom floor is for storage of track equipment, middle floor for media, and top floor for coaches.

Rushford-Peterson is now able to host track meets for the first time since the early 1980s. Wade insists that the new facility, which was essentially functional by last October, has made a big difference to the local track team already as it "helped out tremendously with practices this year."

In talking to other coaches, Wade learned that field events and relay teams stand to benefit most by having a track facility for practices. But Wade saw improvement across the board, "all the way to our distance people."

"The benefit was reaped at the state meet this year," he says, adding that Rushford-Peterson placed "third and fifth in the 2-mile, and state champion in the sixteen hundred."

Both Wade and Kopperud will speak at this Fridays dedication, along with Kristi Colbenson, recent R-P graduate and state champion. Colbenson and Jeanie Becker, who also went to state, will lead everyone in a "victory lap" walking around the track.

Donors will be formally recognized at Fridays dedication. In addition, a permanent, inscribed "donor wall" will eventually be placed at the tracks entrance.

One purpose of Fridays event is simply for people in the community to "try" the track, according to Wade. The community is welcome to use the track for walking and running, as long as they leave bikes and rollerblades at home.

"We want everyone to come on down and walk the track," says Wade.

By Bonnie Prinsen

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