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Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2005

Track and field program has a ‘home’ facility for first time in its 32-year history

MANSFIELD, Conn. – Eastern Connecticut State University officially dedicated its new $2 million, eight-lane  track and field facility with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday afternoon at the ECSU Outdoor Athletic Complex.

The dedication ceremony officially ushers in a new era for the Eastern intercollegiate track and field program, which will be utilizing its own outdoor track facility for the first time in its  32-year history. Regardless, the Warriors have won four straight Little East Conference s in as many years under Head Coach Frank Poulin and feature ten NCAA Division III All-America selections in the long jump, throws and sprints.

 Ribbon-cutters (left to right): Head Coach Frank Poulin, senior David Nicholson, sophomore Erin Nolan, and Director of Athletics Dr. Joyce S. Wong

“This facility was a long time in coming,” noted Eastern President Dr. David Carter, who concluded the speaking portion of the ceremony. “I thank the men and women on the team, as well as Dr. Wong (Eastern Athletic Director Joyce). Everything doesn’t come overnight, but I want to make it clear that what you see here, we did as a community. Because of diligence and hard work by many people, this track is here today.”

The first phase of the project which included an initial bank of lights and the track surface began in the spring of 2004 and was completed this past summer when a final surface coat was applied and lane lines were painted. The second  phase of the project to include bleachers, press box, remaining lights and artificial infield surface is expected to begin sometime after 2007. The project has been awarded to Konover Construction Corporation of Farmington, Conn.

Taking the ceremonial first lap (from left to right in foreground) are Director of Athletics Dr. Joyce S. Wong, Head Track & Field Coach Frnnk Poulin and track and field alumni Trenton Wright '76 and Bob McKay '79.

The Eastern men’s track and field program began as a club in the early 1970s, achieved intercollegiate status in 1975 under Head Coach Dr. John Keleher. Women joined the program in 1978.

“This dream began with Coach Keleher in the 1970s,” pointed out Poulin during his remarks. “And they made it work without a facility. We must remember to follow in their footsteps.”

The dedication ceremonies were attended by Eastern staff and administrators, as well as members of the Eastern coaching staff, student-athletes and alumni. Former cross-country and track and field coach Clint Bowman was in attendance, as were alumni Trenton Wright ’76 and Bob McKay ’79.

Both Keleher and Wright were

recognized as “Pioneers” as part of Eastern’s Hall of Fame Induction ceremonies this past October while former track and field standouts Bonnie Edmondson ’87, Stephen Gates ’75 and Vincent Pillari ’77 are members of the Hall of Fame.

Following the speaking program, those in attendance walked a ceremonial first lap around the track. At the finish line, the ceremonial ribbon was cut  by two current members of the team: senior David Nicholson of Windsor and sophomore Erin Nolan of Tolland.

“It has been a challenge to our track and field teams without a home-track advantage. This season, the challenge is to prove why we’ve been successful,” noted Wong during her remarks. “No that we have a place to call ‘home’, we’ll be expecting a whole lot more,” she joked.

In her remarks, Wong indicated that the facility will welcome use by not only Eastern’s student-athletes, but by the entire Eastern and surrounding communities.

Additional remarks during the speaking program came from Shelly McCauley Browning, president of the Student Government Association and from Nicholson and senior teammate David Pavia of Stamford.

In reference to the Eastern administration, Pavia noted in his remarks that “this track represents your acknowledgement of our dedication and hard work as members of  the track and field program. After practicing everywhere that Willimantic has to offer, we appreciate and are happy to have this beautiful facility.”

In his remarks, Nicholson thanked Carter and Wong, as well as Poulin, who he singled out for “his effort in finding places for us to practice. This track allows future members of the program to better themselves.”

The 2006 outdoor track and field season gets underway March 23 at the Irwin Cohen Invitational, hosted by Northeastern University. No regular-season meets are scheduled at home during the season, although Eastern may host the Little East Conference/New England Alliance Meet April 28.

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