WINSLOW — Alliyah Veilleux walked out of Winslow High School on a chilly Thursday and, for the first time in three years, went straight to the track for a much-anticipated home meet.
“Weird,” said Veilleux, a senior, “but awesome. It’s crazy. I haven’t had a home meet since freshman year. It felt good to just walk right out of school and walk right to a track meet.”
Winslow debuted its made-over track, a $200,000 project funded by the town and school, Thursday with a five-team meet. It was the first home track and field meet at the school since 2010.
Cony, Waterville, Mt. Blue and Gardiner attended what Winslow athletic director Carrie Larrabee called more of a “soft opening.”
A ribbon-cutting ceremony will come May 18, when Winslow will host the ninth annual Community Cup.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Larrabee said. “It’s our first one in three years and it’s just amazing to be able to host one.”
The project, which the town funded up front, included ripping up the old, worn and hole-filled track and replacing it with a new one, complete with a three-eighths inch rubberized surface.
The jumping pits and runways were also redone. New equipment, including hurdles, was donated to the school as well.
Thursday also marked Kevin Russell’s debut as Winslow track and field coach. Russell was an assistant at Cony the last five seasons.
“The buildup and anticipation had been building for the last couple of days,” he said. “It wasn’t going to be perfect, but we wanted to make it as perfect as we could.”
It was more than good enough for the many student-athletes who competed Thursday.
Waterville senior Devin Burgess said the track “felt great.”
“This is a huge change,” he said. “You can feel the difference. This is going to attract a lot more (Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference) teams here. I can relate to how they all felt here with the old track.”
Waterville debuted a sparking new track facility two years ago.
“This is good for track and field in central Maine,” Waterville coach Ian Wilson said. “I live in Winslow so this was good to see. I’m very impressed with all the details they put into it. It’s a nice track.”
Winslow senior Nick Shuckrow, who finished third in the 1,600-meter run, agreed.
“It’s been disappointing that we didn’t have a meet here for so long,” he said. “Having a home meet is good because you feel like you can do better at home. The track itself is really nice. It’s springy and you can really get good traction.”
Mt. Blue senior Justin Tracy, who won the 1,600, and the rest of the Cougars spend most of their practices running around in the school parking lot. A new track facility that is part of a large school renovation project is expected to be in place next season.
He said the track felt “awesome.”
“Compared to Mt. Blue, where we train in the parking lot, this is pretty great,” he said.
Added Veilleux: “Running on this is going to make all the difference. No one is going to get shin splints anymore. Our old track, it felt like concrete. There were patches everywhere and holes. It was tough because we couldn’t do a lot on it. It was gross. To have this now, it’s so cool. We love it.”
Bill Stewart — 621-5640