“Our team has so much potential. We work so hard. It would mean the world to us if we could get a better track. We could have better practices and maybe improve as a team,” said Rebecca O’Donnell, one of the captains of the Pilgrim Track team.
The Pilgrim track, located just behind the high school, is in obvious disrepair. The composite material is tearing and completely missing in many sections. The innermost lane, the most important and most used one, is almost completely worn down.
The three captains of the track team all said that the team doesn’t complain, but the thoughts of what a new track could mean have crossed their minds.
Danika Wayss, the distance captain for the girls’ team, said, “We try and make the best of it. We try to stay to the outside lanes. Everyone has a really good attitude about it, but it does make it tougher on practices. With a better track, we could practice and perform at higher levels.”
Melanie Brumnelle, also a captain, said, “It would definitely help everyone improve in their events.”
O’Donnell said, “The other sports get a lot more attention than us. We only have events at Toll Gate. If we got a better track and could hold meets, it could draw a lot more attention to us. I think a lot more people in Warwick would go.”
Not only does O’Donnell run many sprinting events, she also participates in the long jump. She said that the sand provided for the jump area is too hard and doesn’t absorb the shock of a jump very well.
Mike Daniels, coach for the boys’ track team, said when he runs or walks himself, he tends to avoid the Pilgrim track, preferring Toll Gate or Hendricken. His team uses the track for a large portion of the school year, for both indoor and outdoor team practices.
“The track is a total disaster. We haven’t held an event in forever and it is getting to the point where we might not even be able to practice on it in the next few years,” Daniels said.
The track was installed in 1995 to replace the cinder track and is the oldest of the three high schools. Track events are held at Toll Gate, whose track is the youngest and also in the best condition. Daniels explained that without repair, the damages to the track would increase exponentially. Throughout the winter, water accumulates under the track through the holes. When the water freezes, it expands and cracks the track, very similar to the pothole situation in Warwick.
Daniels said, “It is pointless to just patch up areas here and there. A few Band-Aids won’t solve the issue. There is no cushion left. It is getting to the point where it could cause injuries. Although it hasn’t yet, it hurts the athletes’ spirit.”
Athletes are not the only ones who use the track either. Many people in the public use the track for walking and running as well.
Ernest Faison and Susan Fortan walk at the Pilgrim track about twice a week. Both agreed that they might use the track more if it was repaired.
Faison said, “It needs to be fixed, you could get hurt if it gets much worse.”
Fortan said, “I try and stay to the outer lanes; they aren’t bad. With a little maintenance it could be a beautiful track. It’s surrounded by so many trees, it’s nice.”
Stacia Petri, Republican candidate for mayor, although she hasn’t visited the track personally, said, “It all comes back to being a symptom of the city’s deteriorating infrastructure.”
On her campaign Facebook page, Stacia For Mayor of Warwick, RI, a follower posted photos of the track. Petri invited any of her followers to post pictures of parts of Warwick they are not happy with and comment.
Jennifer Wrench commented on the picture of the track, saying, “People from other towns don’t visit City Hall, they visit schools for sporting events and I’m tired of being embarrassed.”
“It is all a part of the urban decay Warwick is facing,” Petri said. “The schools have been level funded for too long.”
The Pilgrim baseball field is also in need of repairs. Weeds have grown through the infield. The sand mix the school received is overly dusty and according to the baseball coach, Scott Bailey, needs to be watered down every day before practice so no one gets hurt. They also do not hold home games at the school either.
Bailey said, “It wouldn’t take much. The field needs to be leveled and we need new mix that wouldn’t give so easily. It would mean a lot to the students to be proud of their field.”
Superintendent Richard D’Agostino would also like to see the track fixed but knows that there are many other repairs that need to be addressed before the track.
In 2006, voters approved a $25 million school bond that was to go to repairs throughout the school system and not only Pilgrim’s, but also Vets’ and Toll Gate’s track would be replaced with the money.
The full bond, however, has not been released by the city and thus the repairs have not been tended to.
D’Agostino said, “It would be great to replace the track, but with so little funding educational and academic concerns, it is not top priority. With limited resources, we have to decide what is best and most necessary for our students.”
Talia Dambruoso, who graduated from Pilgrim in 2013, still uses the track about once a week. She participated on the track team and seemed to agree with D’Agostino.
“If they fixed the track, it would help the athletes, but they should make other repairs before the track. There is a lot to fix,” she said.
He explained that with the estimates the school department received, it would cost about $120,000 to replace each track. It could also take upwards of a month for the full replacement to be completed.