When the Yerington Relays track and field meet first was contested in 1930, athletes ran on the fastest surface known to man at the time - dirt.
For 69 seasons, Yerington's dirt track was as dated as the Yerington Relays, which is the oldest annually contested invitational in Nevada. But this spring, track and field in Yerington has entered the 21st century with a new state-of-the art track which arguably gives Yerington the best high school track facility in the state - the William M. Weaver Jr. Track and Field Complex.
"I'm not sure there's a better one in the state - period," said Yerington athletics director John Dibble. "This is one beautiful facility."
The complex will be officially dedicated today at 9 a.m. before the first event of the 70th Yerington Relays, which will include 28 of Northern Nevada's top small-school track teams.
"This facility was not even in our dreams," said Yerington coach Cory Sanford, gazing out at the new track from the stands following the Lyon County Championships on Wednesday. "We never thought in a million years that this would occur."
The once-in-a-million-years act of kindness which did occur was the donation of $200,000 toward a new facility made by William Weaver Jr.
Weaver, who's been invited to today's dedication, is a New York investment broker who owns several ranches in the Yerington area. He also has an affinity for track and field, the sport he competed in for Princeton University before his graduation in 1934.
On a trip to see his ranches, Weaver saw the run-down Yerington facility and made the gift to Yerington. Although the $200,000 accounted for the majority of the money given for the improvement of the facility, additional monies for the facility were raised throughout Lyon County. Sources of additional funding included a grant, the Lyon County School District, and donations from companies including Sierra Pacific Power and Western Nevada Supply, as well as other private donations.
All told, the money bought the new Atlas latex track - the only synthetic track at a 3A high school in Northern Nevada - as well as a field-event area adjacent to the track, first-class equipment (including hurdles from UCS Spirit manufactured in Carson City), new stadium lights, a new sound system, a new scoreboard and a new sprinkler system - everything but the automatic timing system, which will be paid for but has not be installed.
"Every coach in every track meet has commented how great this facility is," said Sanford, now in his third year as the Lions' coach. "Every one says, 'We're jealous. We wish we had someone to give us the money to do the same thing.'"
"There's nothing you can say to completely express our thanks to William Weaver for what he's done for this school by donating the money to build this facility."
Although Yerington was the fortunate recipient of Weaver's donation, the Lions' athletics department has been generous in sharing the facility. There have already been 15 meets held this spring in the facility, including several middle-school meets and the Bulldog Invitational, hosted by Yerington's Lyon County small-school neighbor, 1A Smith Valley High. The Weaver Complex will also host the 3A Division II trials as well as the 1A divisional next weekend.
"This going to become a county-wide facility," said Dibble. "Smith Valley is already hosting meets here and we anticipate the possibility of Dayton and Fernley moving their invitational meets here. And there will be All-Comers meets here in the summer."
Smith Valley coach Jim Gleason said he apreciated Yerington's willingness to give other schools access to the track.
"Especially with us, Yerington's been very cooperative," said Gleason, whose Bulldog girls are the reigning state champions. "All the kids seem to be enjoying the new track. We come over and work out every once in a while and Yerington always seems more than happy to have us."
With its new facility, maybe people are anticipating a return to glory for the Lions track and field team. Yerington has a rich history in track and field, having won seven boys state track titles since 1938.
"We had the best dirt track in Nevada," joked Dibble, not overly upset that he will no longer have to spend hours lining the Lions' dirt surface.
"We had some tremendous teams here in the 1930, 1960s and 1970s and we've taken a great deal of pride in those teams and the Yerington Relays," said Dibble, the Lions track coach between 1973-89. "We still do take pride in the Yerington Relays and this new facility gives it even more impetus."
The new facility did seem to generate some additional interest in track and field within the Yerington student body, as 52 athletes went out for track - about 12 more than average, according to Sanford. For a variety of reason, the team is down to about 25 members, about an average-sized Lion team for this time of year. (But look out for the Lions in the future - the size of the track team has exploded at Yerington Middle School.)
"There's a lot more interest in track; we had a good turnout this year," Dibble said. "There's quite a bit of excitement around town."
With the new facility also comes speculation that the Weaver Complex could host (once the timing system is installed) either the 1A, 2A, or 3A state track meet, or any combination of those meets. Currently, all four Nevada team classes meet a one site for a state track meet which spans two days.
The only drawback to Yerington hosting a state meet might be the lack of hotel rooms in town, although the Lions did successfully host a number of 2A state meets in the 1970s.
"We're certainly capable of hosting the 3A state championship," Dibble said. "Our community would welcome it with open arms. We hosted baseball and softball championships last year and would certainly do a good job with track as well."
Chuck Hildebrand of NevPrep.com contributed information to this report.