Construction on the Belhaven University track and field is complete, and student athletes can now train and compete on the state-of-the-art, eight-lane track complex.
Located on the north side of campus, the new facility extends from the Bitsy Irby building to the Belhaven Lake.
“The completion of the new track and field opens up many more opportunities for our student athletes," said Vice President for University Enrollment and Marketing Kevin Russell. "When you combine our new facilities with our well-known academic reputation, you create a great option for serious competitors. We look forward to watching our track, field, and cross-country programs benefit and grow.”
The track has a synthetic all-weather running surface that is similar at past Olympic games. Belhaven Blazers can now compete in 21 collegiate track and field events. Sprints, hurdles, steeple chase, middle and long-distance races, relays, long jump, triple jump, high jump and pole vault will take place on campus. Belhaven’s softball complex on Riverside Drive will accommodate other field events that include discus, hammer and javelin throw as well as combined events such as decathlons and heptathlons.
“Constructing a track from the ground up is a huge undertaking,” said LaRon Bennett Jr., director of track and field/cross country. “There are so many moving parts that all have timing windows: from surveying of the land, to the digging of the area, to filling back in of the dirt and lime, to letting that set for weeks, to pouring and leveling of asphalt and letting that set, then to the pouring and leveling of the rubber track surface, to the striping and marking of the surface. To note, all of these were dependent on the weather cooperating.”
A number of unforeseen obstacles changed the completion date and caused multiple delays.
“Our challenges completing the track were wet weather and soil, which are no surprise for us in central Mississippi,” said Vice President and Director of Athletics Scott Little. “While it did take longer than we planned, we are all very pleased with the outcome. The team is excited about using the new facility, and that is what makes me the happiest. Even our students who aren’t student-athletes get to use the facility, so it enhances campus life for everyone.”
While waiting on the facility to be completed, the track and field team made significant milestones as top competitors.
“The team has been anxiously waiting for this completed project for years and I was most happy for them when they finally got the chance to run on it and they loved it," Bennett said. "They have had many success and records over the past two seasons without a consistent track to train on, so with a track to now call their own, we are expecting much more.”
Little said the university would rather not start a sport without the facilities to support it, but that decision proved beneficial. Several Belhaven student-athletes have already posted nationally ranked times and distances in their indoor season, which began in January.
Belhaven University is scheduled to host the ASC Championship April 29-May 1.
“We are thrilled to host the ASC Championship," Bennett said. "When you dream of building a facility like this, that’s the picture you have in your mind’s eye. In less than three months that dream will be reality. Competitors at that event will obviously compete for conference championships but also have the opportunity to set marks that can qualify them for the NCAA National Championships. Those are the targets in all of our competition.”
Belhaven’s first official home track and field event is scheduled April 16-17. The university will host 5-6 schools in the surrounding areas.