Build a track and they will come.
That’s exactly what has happened to the Southold/Greenport high school boys and girls track and field teams. “They built it and the kids came,” said Karl Himmelmann, the coach overseeing both teams in this landmark season.
Southold High School will host track meets for the first time with its new track this spring. The track, part of a $9.7 million capital bond that school district voters approved in 2015, was unveiled in a ribbon-cutting ceremony last May. But the track’s first meet will be Tuesday when Southold’s boys and girls teams both host Shelter Island in season-opening meets.
“I have to be honest with you, if you had asked me three years ago if Southold would ever build a track, I would say, ‘No way,’ ” Himmelmann said. “It’s a beautiful track. Honestly, I know I’m partial because it’s our track, but it’s one of the nicest tracks around.”
The six-lane red track (Southold’s color) also has a pole vault area and a water pit for the steeplechase.
Because Greenport, which had previously been the host school, doesn’t have a suitable track, all of the teams’ meets had been on the road. One of the longest road trips will come to an end as the road warriors turn into homebodies. All five of the girls team’s league meets will be in Southold, and the boys will run at home in three of their six league meets.
The lure of the new track, as well as coaches’ recruiting efforts, have brought out 52 boys and 28 girls for the teams.
Himmelmann said: “I know that’s the most Greenport/Southold boys and girls we have ever had … There’s definitely a sparked interest level in track and field in Southold and Greenport.”
For this season, at least, Himmelmann will oversee both teams while being assisted by three coaches working in their own specialty areas. Bill Hiney will work with throwers and high jumpers, Joe Corrado handles sprinters, long jumpers and triple jumpers, and Stephanie Berberich coaches the hurdlers and race walkers. “It seems to be working very well so far,” said Himmelmann, who had coached in Mattituck from 2010-18.
“I have so much respect for and appreciation for the coaching staff that I have to work with in Southold this year,” he added. “… They’re great coaches. We’re starting to build what has the potential to be a strong track program for years to come.”
Hosting track meets involves an organizational aspect, such as moving hurdles onto and off the track and having chaperones in the right places. Himmelmann is looking forward to it.
“It’s a different experience for all of these community members and parents as well,” he said. “Many of them have never sat down and watched a track meet. It’s super exciting. It really is.”
Photo caption: Southold High School will host its first meet on its new track Tuesday when both its boys and girls teams will compete against Shelter Island. (Credit: Kelly Zegers, file)