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Track deterioration halts historic Rotary Relays

Track deterioration halts historic Rotary Relays
Union City High School principal/athletic director Wes Kennedy would like to get the Rotary Relays back on track.
It won’t happen this year.
The UC-hosted event, which is longest-running track meet of its kind in West Tennessee and would have been in its 34th year this spring, was axed from the schedule due to concerns about the deteriorating track at War Memorial Stadium.
“This is something we look forward to every year and we’d love to have it again, but the track is not in any shape from a liability standpoint to hold an event like this right now,” Kennedy told The Messenger. “The inside lane is in really bad shape and our track team doesn’t even practice in that lane.”
UCHS track coach Darren Bowling agrees with Kennedy about the track not being up to par, but the coach admitted he’ll miss having the event.
“I know a lot of the teams up here (in northwest Tennessee) looked forward to this meet because it had less travel and a lot of the schools that came considered it a home meet,” Bowling said. “I hate that we’re not having it because it was the only track meet a lot of parents and community members got the chance to see.
“We always hear about the top-notch facilities that we have at Union City when people come to a game or just into town for a visit and I”ve stressed that since I’ve been here. I think the track situation needs to be addressed because it’s a shame to have a rundown track surrounding the football field that was voted best in the nation.”
The Union City Middle School track team did host a small meet at War Memorial Stadium, although they used only three of the running lanes and ran in heats. Attempting a high school meet where normally at least 10 teams are entered with three available lanes is not a feasible alternative due to time constraints.
Kennedy did say that he hopes to procure the funding necessary to repair the track. The UCHS principal gave no timetable for the fix of the surface, which is made up of granulated rubber. Kennedy said an estimate obtained last year on repairing the track was around $70,000.
Over the years, some of the brighest stars in not only track and field, but in West Tennessee and Western Kentucky sports have been under the spotlight at the Rotary Relays.
The fact that this year there will not be a RR is bothersome to Bowling.
“I think not having it this year has hit home to a lot of people in the area — myself included,” Bowling said. “There’s a lot of history and tradition at this meet. It’s a tradition we’d like to carry on.
“Sometimes, you take what you have for granted until it’s gone.”
Current New Orleans Saints cornerback Jabari Greer — competing for Jackson South Side — swept the Most Valuable Field Performer and Most Valuable Runner awards in both 1999 and 2000.
Additionally, two other National Football League players performed well enough to win a Most Valuable Performer award at the UC event.
Former Denver Broncos’ linebacker Al Wilson (Jackson Central-Merry) and ex-New York Jets’ offensive lineman Trey Teague (University School of Jackson) both claimed the top field event honors in 1995 and 1992, respectively.
Covington’s James Maclin, who went on to play star at Memphis State, also was a standout at the UC event — claiming top field event honors in four consecutive Rotary Relays (1985-88).
For the females, current Western Kentucky University track team member Sharika Smith (Fulton County) finished her prep career as the most decorated female in Rotary Relays’ history — claming three Most Valuable Runner awards and one Most Valuable Field Performer honor.
Locals also stood out on numerous occasions at the Rotary Relays.
Union City’s Dexton Hopson was named the Most Valuable Field Performer in 2008, while fellow Twister alum Jeremy McCadney earned the same honor in ’02. Dean Lockridge was the only Tornado to earn the Most Valuable Runner trophy, doing so in 1990.
On the girls’ side, Mary Jane Smith and Tammy Crutchfield claimed the Most Valuable Athlete award in 1981 and 1983, respectively. Melanie Carr was the top field performer in 1988.
Sports reporter Kenneth Coker can be contacted by e-mail at kcoker@ucmessenger.com.

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