New track facility among best in country

The new UK track and field facilities in Lexington, Ky., on Wednesday, October 10, 2012. Photo by Genevieve Adams | Staff

By Nick Gray | @KyKernelGray
sports@kykernel.com

First, new track and field head coach Edrick Floreal was introduced in a press conference last month, fresh from coaching athletes in London during the Olympics.

The second part is a sparkling new, state of the art $12.9 million outdoor facility designed specifically for the track and field program. The facility was unveiled to the public last Friday by Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart and Floreal.

Included in the festivities was a local band playing in the background during a tour of the indoor track facilities. Tyson Gay, a 2012 Olympic silver medalist in 4×100 meters and a Lexington native, also attended the event.

The new track, located near Cliff Hagan Stadium, is a part of UK’s plans to host the 2015 SEC Outdoor Track and Field Championships as the premier event to show off the new facilities.

Both Barnhart and Floreal credited retired track and field head coach Don Weber with the hard work in pushing for a new outdoor facility and ensuring that a new track would be here well after he retired.

“My message is pretty simple. You guys have gone this far in supporting Don. I’m hoping you can go a little bit further,”
Floreal said in a message to supporters of the program Friday. “But if people want to get along and support each other and help build this thing to the next level (without their assistance), it’s not going to happen. We’re not going to build this thing to the point where Don hoped for it to become without your help.”

Weber, who was head coach of the track and field team for 33 years at UK, attended the ceremonies and spoke to the crowd about the new track that represents his legacy to UK.

“With Shivley Sports Center, the indoor track at Nutter Field House and now this facility, we have the best infrastructure in college track and field,” Weber said. “I have no doubt Edrick, his coaches and his athletes will build the most competitive track team in the history of UK.”

Floreal reiterated the notion that he is building on what Weber left in retirement. Floreal used the house building example which he has used repetitively in his first six weeks at UK. According to Floreal, Weber has built and insulated the basement; Floreal’s job is to build the rest of the house and, as he said, “If we’re lucky, we’ll build an attic. That’s where the trophies will go.”

Immediately, Floreal might find struggles in filling the attic, as the men’s track team finished 7th in the SEC Outdoor Championships in the spring and the women’s team placed 12th, out of 12, in the same event in Weber’s final year.

“I promise you there’s one thing I don’t do. I don’t fail,” Floreal said. “This university and this coach (Weber) deserve a better product after 33 years.”

If that statement heeds true, not only will Weber sit happy in retirement, but also the renaissance of track and field at UK will be complete.