On the wrong track: Liberty’s track poses a danger to athletes

Carlyn Schmidgall, Senior Writer

It’s an unassuming rust-colored oval, occupying the space between the field and stands. It lies empty much of the year, but comes alive during the spring when Liberty’s track and field teams make it their home.
But despite its benign appearance, it has a dark side. Liberty’s track has victims.
Liberty’s track is old and nearly as hard as rock, and running on it feels like running on concrete. Thankfully, the stadium renovation will resurface it, creating a softer track that will be safer for athletes to run on. However, the timeline for resurfacing it is uncertain. In fact, the new track may not be complete by next track season, forcing athletes to train and compete on the old track yet again. Liberty’s track is unsafe for athletes, and it is dangerous for athletes to risk training on it another season.
Running on hard surfaces leaves sprinters and distance runners alike prone to shin splints, which occur when muscles in the shins tear away from the bones they were connected to. In addition, distance runners, due to the mileage they run, face a myriad of overuse injuries, the most feared being a stress fracture. A stress fracture occurs when the bones in the lower extremities fracture under the repeated stress of running long distances on hard surfaces.
Over my past three years as a distance runner for Liberty, I’ve watched teammate after teammate succumb injuries from training on our track.
One of my teammates got stress fractures in her shins both years she competed for Liberty’s track team; this last season, she had fractures in both legs. My sophomore track season, I suffered stress reactions (the precursor to a stress fracture) in both of my legs, forcing me to end my season before they developed into fractures. My junior season, I escaped a similar fate only by doing many of my workouts on the soft, springy track down at Maywood.
Liberty’s distance training program isn’t exceptionally rigorous; it is comparable to other high school’s training regimens. Liberty’s distance runners actually run higher mileage during the Cross Country season— but they get injured less. The reason? They don’t have to train on Liberty’s track.
All of Liberty’s athletes should be able to participate in their sports safely. Just as football teams require proper helmets and soccer teams need sturdy shin guards, a suitable track is an essential piece of equipment for track athletes.
A new track isn’t a luxury that athletes should be expected to patiently wait on, it’s a necessity. And unfortunately for Liberty’s track athletes, it’s a necessity we may just have to do without this coming track season.