Come spring, Bethany will once again field a track team.
Though Bethany has explored the viability of a track program on a small scale recently—first as a track club with limited events for three years (2009-11) and as a distance running club the past two years—this will be the first time in nearly 30 years to have an official team.
Heading up the program will be Benji Hurst, who coached both clubs previously and has been Bethany’s cross country coach since 2013. Benji says, “I am really excited about track and field returning at Bethany. It will be exciting to see our athletes showcasing their wide range of gifts and abilities on the track and in the throws and jumps.”
Principal Hank Willems, who was a member of the last track team in spring of 1989, notes that the program was not discontinued for lack of success or numbers. In his junior year the boys team was 12-4-1 with Hank and three others qualifying for sectionals—and one advancing on to state. According to the Witmarsum (Bethany’s yearbook), Hank may have advanced to regionals “but he tripped, or just fell.”
Hank further explains that the track and field program was discontinued as part of long-range planning that called for converting the track and baseball field into parking for the new high school gym and moving athletic facilities across the railroad tracks to their current location. Installing a new track was deemed not financially feasible. That still has not changed, but arrangements have been made with Goshen College to use their facilities for practice and home events.
Benji hopes to build off the success of the distance runners the past two years. Last year Hannah Yeakey and Elaina Youngberg ran excellent sectional times with Hannah advancing to regionals in the 3200 meter run with a top 25 time across the state.
Benji hopes to fill other track and fields events with fall athletes not participating in other spring sports. Nearly two-thirds of Bethany’s 149 high school students (98) are participating in fall sports this year, whereas only 40 participated in spring sports. In addition to track for both boys and girls, spring athletes at Bethany can play baseball, golf, softball, or girls tennis.