New track facility up and running at St. C.

If you think hosting a track meet is a piece of cake, you’ve obviously never been to one … or at least paid attention.

St. Clairsville hadn’t hosted a track and field meet since 1982 when the Red Devil Early Bird was contested on the cinders at the former site of the Belmont County Fair.

That all changed this week, however.

The Red Devils got their first taste of hosting a meet Monday when a junior-high triangular unfolded and then Tuesday, Red Devils’ Stadium played host to a varsity triangular.

And both went off without a hitch. Well, at least no major snafus, anyway.

“We’re thrilled to be in this position,” said St. C. head coach Ben Frye. “It’s been like a rags to riches kind of thing for us. Last year, we’re practicing in a parking lot and now we’re hosting meets.”

Frye, who competed as a prep at River, and then attended West Liberty State College before landing the position with the Red Devils, admits there some moments of trepidation leading up to this past Monday when the first gun sounded.

“There are times when you’re stressed out and ready to pull your hair out, but it came together well,” Frye said. “I was just as nervous for this meet as I am at the state track meet for our kids.”

The reason for the nerves was simple. Frye and the Red Devils didn’t want to be labeled as a site, which runs slow track meets. If that happens, it’s a tough image to shed and affects other teams’ perception and whether or not they want to come to those meets.

“It turns off teams, fans and officials,” Frye said. “I was definitely nervous for that.”

The Red Devils’ track was completed during the summer, but there was still plenty of work to do from the time the lines were painted until this week.

“Both Ben and I encountered some tense moments,” said St. C. Athletic Director Kelly Rine. “But, we didn’t feel we had any issues or problems that would stand in our way of providing an opportunity for our kids and the other schools competing to hold up the meets or anything.”

Early in 2011, the St. C. brass ordered some $25K worth of equipment, including 84 weighted hurdles and a pole vault pit. The equipment arrived on March 10, but the bouts with Mother Nature held up the completion of the throwing areas, which are located in the north end of the stadium where the barns used to sit.

The areas weren’t totally completed until Monday afternoon just before the first competitors arrived. The junior high meet didn’t contest discus because the sector lines hadn’t been placed down.

“We had a lot of people behind the scenes pull together to make (the throwing area) happen,” Rine said. “We had some stumbling blocks, but the bottom line is our maintenance staff came through, Mr. Skaggs made it a priority and Coach Frye and his staff stayed focused on the kids and we got it done.”

Breaking in meet officials was a big concern for both Rine and Frye, but they were more than pleased and continually expressed their gratitude to the volunteers and officials, who worked this week’s meets.

“Our coaching staff, our volunteers came out stronger than we anticipated and our officials kept things moving in a timely manner,” Rine said.

Maybe the most impressive part of the St. C. track facility is the state-of-the-art Finish Lynx Timing System, which Frye and company are learning to use on the fly. Rine believes that’s the key piece to taking their meet management to the next level.

“We knew we could have some weather issues in late March, but we also knew we had an opportunity to get some smaller meets in before the large ones and I think once we become more comfortable with the timing system, the sky is the limit for how we can conduct a meet.”

The Red Devils have several more track meets ahead on their new oval. They’ll host the inaugural Dave Porterfield Memorial Invitational on Friday, April 8 and the Buckeye 8 Track and Field Championship in late April.

Staskey can be reached at