from Kevin Hooper
The Meaford Coyotes Track Club is at risk of losing their primary training facility. A meeting was held on Thursday, October 13th that included Coyotes head coach Kevin Hooper, Municipality of Meaford's mayor and CAO and members of the Bluewater District School Board.
Discussions were directed around the new JK-Grade 12 school build scheduled within the next couple years and potentially setting up a community partnership with the BWDSB and the Municipality to improve the athletic facilities. After inquiring about what athletic facilities would be provided in the "new build", it was outlined that there could be up to 3 gymnasiums, but there was no 100% guarantee of an athletic track. The best case scenario for an athletic field would be a small, 4-laned, cinder 400m track, that would soon be over-run with weeds and have no permanent lines to map out the different lanes. If the new school build goes over budget, then the track would be the first expense to go. This proposal is downsized from the present 6-lane, paved 440yd track the Coyotes presently train on, but the size of the Coyote team is outgrowing this track and are already overcrowded on it. The School Board's plans for the GBDS athletic field on Aitken St. would be to sell it off, potentially to contractors, who would develop it into real estate properties and the Coyotes would have no place to train.
At the present time, the Meaford Coyotes train 90% of the time at the Georgian Bay District School athletic field and part of the Georgian Trail when there is no snow on the track. This location is ideal for the athletes as it gives them diversity for various types of training, and the results of the Coyotes over the last 6 years have proven this. Since the program began in August 2010, we have had runners win National Junior Cross Country Championships and compete for Canada on the international scale, win Ontario Championships for track as well as cross country, have had several OFSAA and Ontario Championship medal winners, and many of our high school runners have been nationally ranked for their age. One local grade 6 runner, Kara Tichbourne, is presently ranked #1 in Canada on the track this year for her age and in the top 3 in North America. We have several other strong runners coming up through the ranks as well who will be national level runners in a few short years. Locally our runners excel in their school meets and road races.
We just hosted our 6th annual Coyote Cross Country Race on the Craft Show Weekend at the GBDS athletic field, where we had 374 school kids throughout Grey-Bruce from grade 1-8 register for our event that we host free of charge. Unfortunately with the GBDS athletic field someday being sold by the School Board, there are no other locations in town to host the event. Also, all of our high school runners who have graduated from the program have gone on to compete at the "varsity" level for their university with scholarship support and preferred admission to their university. In a very short 6 years, the Coyotes have become a force to be dealt with on a provincial level as well as nationally. The future of the Coyotes is very promising!
The Team began with only a handful of runners and has multiplied to over 65 members, the vast majority of them range from grade 1-12, with a few "masters" runners. We attract runners from Meaford, Thornbury, Heathcote, Markdale, Flesherton, Port Elgin, Wiarton, Sauble Beach, Owen Sound, Collingwood, Dundalk and a family from Coldwater.
Coach Hooper recently spoke with family relatives of the late Mr. William Croft. William Croft was a taxi driver back in the 1930's and donated the 6.5 acre athletic field on the corner of Aitken Street and St. Vincent Street to the Bluewater District School Board to support health and fitness for our youth. The nephew of Mr. Croft and the nephew's daughter are encouraged by the work of the Coyotes and want the field to continue to be used as was originally intended.
Our Coyote volunteer coaching staff support these young runners on a year round basis to promote health, fitness and a competitive spirit in a positive, encouraging and uplifting environment. Every other sports team in Meaford has a place to call "home" and the Coyotes are at serious risk of loosing their "home".
The Meaford Coyotes Track Club is pleading with the BWDSB, the Municipality of Meaford and its citizens to keep the William Croft Athletic Field on Aitken Street as it was originally intended. The Coyotes could then begin a fund-raising campaign to upgrade the track area to meet the growing needs of the team so they can continue to produce high level track athletes for decades to come.