Of the Baker City Herald

Baker High School athletes will have a smooth and spongy new surface on which to sprint next spring.

A two-year campaign to raise money to rebuild the dilapidated BHS track accelerated during the past week, as the project received two grants totaling $58,000.

Those grants $30,000 from the Ford Family Foundation of Roseburg, $28,000 from the Charlotte Martin Foundation of Seattle combined with a recent $10,000 award from Nike's Bowerman Track Renovation Program, boosted the total to $179,450.

That should be more than enough to rebuild the track before the spring 2006 season starts, said Brian Cole, a Baker City resident who volunteered to write grant applications for the project.

andquot;We believe we are ready to start getting serious about rebuilding the track this fall,andquot; Cole said Tuesday.

andquot;It is so rewarding to see the hard efforts of our students, community, and Rotary Club be rewarded with success in fund-raising,andquot; said Jerry Peacock, BHS principal and chairman of the Track Renovation Advisory Committee.

Cole said the estimated cost to rebuild the track is $169,000. The tab includes $30,000 to erect a tower that will stand near the finish line and serve as an announcer's booth, concession stand and display listing track records and recognizing donors to the project.

The two-story tower will be known as the Rotary Tower, to honor the Baker Rotary Club, which picked the track as its centennial project and donated $10,000.

Cole said he's pleased that the new track will be ready not only for BHS athletes, but for the district championship track meet that will take place at the high school in May 2006.

The BHS track was built 31 years ago and it has been resurfaced just once since then, 12 years ago.

Cracks mar the track's black rubber surface, and the pounding from tens of thousands of sprinter's spikes and sneakers has in places worn the formerly cushioned surface down to knee-jarring asphalt.

To help spur fund-raising, a group of local residents, including Cole's wife, Suzy, who's a BHS teacher and cross-country coach, and Peacock, formed the Track Renovation Advisory Committee.

A group of 15 students in John Howlett's Leadership class at BHS, most of them track athletes, helped raise money, too.

The students, who called themselves the Jewelers (Peacock refers to the track as the last jewel in the high school's crown of sporting venues), sold $1,000 sponsorships to each of the track's eight lanes, and $500 sponsorships for seven field events.

Lane sponsors are: Clarke andamp; Clarke Insurance, Old West Federal Credit Union, Sterling Bank, U.S. Bank, Valley Metal and Heating, Jack and Meredith Wilson, John and Molly Wilson, and Baker Valley Physical Therapy.

Field event sponsors are: Eric and Kristi Sandefur; Dave and Beth Richards; Kirk and Marsha Smith; Jim and Harriet Gibson (two events); Jim and Kathleen Davis; and Pandamp;E Distributing.

The Jewelers also conducted raffles, a Runathon and the Rotary Family Fun Meet.

The Jewelers' efforts helped to push the fund-raising total from $85,950 in late March to about $111,500 by the end of the school year, Cole said.

Then the grants from the Ford Family and Charlotte Martin foundations and the Bowerman program pushed the project past the finish line tape.

The $30,000 award from the Ford Family Foundation was the second-largest the track renovation project has received, Brian Cole said.

The largest was a $50,000 grant from the Leo Adler Community Foundation.