CADDO HILLS – The staff and students had a lot of help as they officially opened the school’s new track facility with a ribbon cutting Thursday, October 12, at the track facility.
School staff and students were joined by members of the Mount Ida Area Chamber of Commerce, PCC Sports, Diamond Bank, Jeff Mullenix, members of the school board and community, as well as former coach Joe Crommett and his wife Pat.
Superintendent Deric Owens welcomed everyone and opened by reminding the students that this is a one of a kind event that was made possible through multiple partnerships including PCC Sports, Mullenix Trucking, Beynon Sports, and Diamond Bank.
Superintendent Owens stated that PCC Sports was responsible for the design and oversight of the project. They partnered with Beynon Sports to provide a state of the art track surface that is the first of its kind in Arkansas.
He went on to say that none of this would have been possible if not for the work of Jeff Mullenix and Mullenix Trucking. They moved approximately 48,000 yards of dirt to prep the area for the track. He wrapped it up by thanking Diamond Bank who donated $60,000 for the purchase of track and field equipment.
Principal Justin Neel Acknowledged that the new track is a huge asset to the school and its students, but also the community at large. He told the students that this project is a reflection of the fact that the community believes in them.
Principal Neel reminisced about how he and Coach John Ellis joined the Caddo Hills staff together 10 years ago. He talked about how they would sit and talk about how great it would be to have a track facility and how could they make it work.
Representatives from PCC Sports spoke about the project also. They shared that there was 800 cubic yards of concrete poured in a single day. That would have been around 80 truckloads of concrete in one day.
He pointed out that the Beynon track surface used on Caddo Hills’ track is the same surface used on the track used for the U.S. Olympic Trials. This is the first post-tension track in Arkansas
Track Coach John Ellis thanked everyone for attending. He was excited to see his dream come to fruition.
He stated that this facility has been in the works since Caddo Hills won their first state title. In that time Caddo Hills has produced 70 state champion athletes, 12 state titles and numerous conference championships.
Coach Ellis pointed out that the track and field world is a small community and when someone builds it makes news. He went on to say that with this track Caddo Hills is making news.
Coach Ellis stated, “I have been dreaming of this since I was an athlete here. The coaches and athletes before me have ran their race. They have passed on the baton through the years of their success and it has now come to us. All we had to do was keep that dream alive and stride out to the finish line.”
Former Coach Joe Crommett spoke to the group. Coach Crommett led Caddo Hills to five state titles and five state runner-up finishes.
He said the amazing thing about Caddo Hills when he was coaching there was the kids and then told the students in attendance that they look just like they did. He encouraged them to run track and field, cross country, and other sports.
He also complimented the new facility and pointed out that the track is better than the one they had at Springdale where he also worked. He encouraged the young people to get out on the track and learn to run, jump and throw.
He reminded them that it is their turn to carry on the winning tradition in track and field at Caddo Hills.
After the speakers finished everyone gathered for the ribbon cutting.
Crommett later spoke about the work that Coach Ellis has done after competing as a student at Caddo Hills. He stated that being a great athlete doesn’t always translate into being a great coach, but in Coach Ellis’s case it did.
Coach Ellis talked a bit about the difficulty of training athletes without a facility. He pointed out that it was a struggle to train as an athlete, but as a coach there was more of a struggle to find ways to train your athletes. He would have to use Google Maps to measure distances and locate places to train. He shared that before they would have to wait until they went to a meet to discuss things such as an exchange zone and the marks on the track. With the new facility they can train with those aspects of the sport at home.
Technique was a major part of Coach Crommett’s coaching style and Coach Ellis stated that he too makes it a priority. Having a track to practice on makes perfecting technique that much easier.
The track is open to the general public during daylight hours. Rules for using the track are located at the entrance to the track.
Caddo Hills races into the future with new track facility