The newly constructed artificial running surface that makes up the All-Weather Track should provide track and field athletes a consistent surface through all types of weather. To celebrate completion of the track, Riverbank High School (RHS) hosted a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for the occasion this past week.
Several community members came out to support and witness the unveiling of the new track that has been hugely anticipated for the past several months. Among the attendees at the ceremony were City Council members Cal Campbell, Darlene Barber-Martinez, and Mayor Richard O’Brien as well as City Manager Jill Anderson. Riverbank Unified School Board of Trustees members were in attendance along with the Chamber of Commerce President, Jerry Van Houten. There were representatives from Congressman Jeff Denham’s office and Assembly member Kristen Olsen’s office that also issued RUSD certificates of congratulations.
RHS Principal Sean Richey began the ceremony with a welcome to all the guests and presented the NJROTC Color Guard which was accompanied by the RHS Band under the direction of Joey Aguilar in the National Anthem.
Richey expressed to the attendees that the Riverbank community is very caring and supportive and that in all the schools where he has worked like in Las Vegas and the Bay Area RHS has great support for athletics and academics.
“When you look at this amazing track, you can’t help but also notice the gym and the other great athletic facilities that we have in place,” said Richey. “The gym is the nicest gym in the Central Valley, high school or otherwise.
“And now, with the addition of this track, we have one of the nicest all-weather tracks in our league. This track is a testament to the outstanding success that our cross country and track teams have had over the past several decades.”
After Richey made his introductions and remarks he introduced Board President, Susan Taylor who gave the audience some history and information about the track.
RHS Teacher and Track Coach Monte Wood gave a very sentimental speech thanking several people and giving credit to all those involved.
“I just want to thank the RUSD School Board, Dr. Camp, Rudy Serrato, Bob Brayton, and Jeep Oliveira for ‘staying in the fight’ and making this happen,” stated Wood. “This track is for the current and future athletes at RHS to use, but it also honors those who have poured their heart and soul into the track program. Bruce Edwards deserves so much credit for establishing the foundation of success in not only winning championships but more importantly the values that are taught through RHS track and field.
“The late Ron Hebert deserves a lot of credit for continuing to maintain the integrity of the program and always being here for RHS athletes.”
With cheers and applause for those mentioned by Wood, the audience attentively listened.
Wood expressed that both of the men mentioned above have influenced him as well as many RHS students and although they are different they both were able to bring out the best in the kids.
“I think we see their influence by the number of alumni that showed up at the ribbon cutting,” added Wood. “Asia Harrison Mann flew in from Nebraska. The other four Harrison siblings drove up from Los Angeles. Tony Winstead is about to be deployed to Iraq, and he made the time to come up from Los Angeles for the event.”
The next speaker was RHS alumni and former Bruin track athlete Brittany Harrison, who gave a speech about Riverbank, being a student, and a track athlete.
To entertain the audience the band played the alma mater and the choir sang and the RHS cheerleaders performed as well.
The closing remarks were given by Superintendent Dr. Daryl Camp, who expressed excitement about the track and thanked all the people that supported the endeavor.
“It’s great that the Riverbank community will have a track that will benefit our students for many years to come,” stated Camp. “The track is beautiful and I’m looking forward to our first track meet in the spring.
“It was great seeing so many members of our community at the ceremony.”
Camp also asked RHS Senior and four-year track athlete Ruben Paredez to do the honors of cutting the ribbon.
Paredez was so honored that he got both a little teary eyed and couldn’t stop smiling.
Following that, members of the current track and cross country teams raced around the track to complete the first ceremonial lap. Cheerleaders, board members, faculty and every day folks took part in walking/running the first lap.
Actual work on the project began last spring, before the end of the school year. It was after the last home track meet of the season that construction began in earnest. As of last Tuesday, there were a few minor touch ups to be completed.
The first home football game was scheduled to be held on Friday, Sept. 4, but fears for the root system of the new sod sent the game to the other team’s home field. The Bruins came up on the short side of a 22-15 score at Big Valley Christian. Athletic Director John Bartlett said an official inspection on Sept. 4 deemed the field would be available for the Sept. 11 home game, when the Bruins will host Delhi. JV kickoff will be at 5:30 p.m., followed by the varsity game at about 7:30 p.m.
The new football field configuration as part of the all-weather track project leaves no grass at the north and south ends of the field past the end zones. Where the high jump and pole vault pits are respectively, now are covered by the all-weather surface.
Similarly, the jumping pits, long jump and triple jump respectively along the sides of the field, also are covered with the new surface, with removable covers over the actual sand pits, so special tarps will have to be put down where the football benches will be going, as well as a tarp to cross the track by the football players.
There is less grass, some of it new sod, that will result in a lower cost to irrigate through the years.
Following the ribbon cutting and commemorative lap run, guests were treated to some light refreshments to wrap up the special ceremony.
“We had a strong showing from students and staff from Riverbank High School and other schools in the District, current and past board members, the mayor and city council, the chamber of commerce, former students and community members,” expressed Camp. “I could feel the excitement in the air and will value the memories forever.”
News Correspondent Ric McGinnis contributed to this report.