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Home for good: Eskomo track enters a new era

Lexi Smalley remembers just a couple of years ago when she and her fellow Esko track and field teammates would train on what she called "an old dirt road."...

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Lexi Smalley remembers just a couple of years ago when she and her fellow Esko track and field teammates would train on what she called “an old dirt road.”

“With potholes,” the junior continued with a laugh.

No potholes were in sight on a perfectly sunny 70-degree Tuesday afternoon at Esko Stadium, as the Eskomos hosted what is said to be their first home track meet since 1989. The beautiful day was well-deserved.

For years, Esko won meet after meet and title upon title, but Tuesday was more meaningful than any award, as the days from training on the high school stairways and what Smalley dubbed “puke road” were gone for good. A $3 million venue - as fine as any in the county and better than most - was finally called home.

“It was fun to get out there; we haven’t had a meet for 26 years,” said Smalley, who sprinted in both the 100- and 200-meter dashes. “It’s really nice to finally have our own track.”

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That track - and turf field - was full of athletes excited to use the pristine facility that they don’t have back home. Esko girls Coach Scott Arntson organized the event, while boys Coach Gary Beaudot said the main goal was simple.

“Our initial idea was to just invite teams that didn’t have tracks because for so many years we’ve had to train our kids without tracks,” Beaudot said, noting the teams that attended Tuesday included Carlton, South Ridge, Hinckley-Finlayson, Floodwood, Moose Lake-Willow River, Silver Bay and Lakeview Christian Academy.

“Not often are we on a track,” South Ridge Coach Jeremy Polson said, adding that the meet acted more like a time trial for athletes to set a benchmark for the spring ahead.

As Beaudot said no teams scores were tallied Tuesday, Polson said a laid-back - yet still competitive - feel was present throughout the day and enjoyable for all.

Polson later explained he had some of his athletes head over to the pole vault, honing skills at the top-of-the-line area.

“We don’t have a facility for that,” said Polson, crediting the Esko coaches and staff. “I really appreciated this meet.”

“It was really nice of them [to invite us],” added Carlton sophomore Erika Fox, who participated in the 400- and 800-meter runs, while helping her 3,200-meter relay team to the win. “It’s a really nice facility. I’m happy they’ve got it now.”

It’s been long overdue since the 1989 Polar League meet in Esko when the prior cinder-based oval at nearby Les Knuti Field needed spikes and chalk machines for an archaic setup.

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That time is far gone now for Esko, and free of potholes.

“It’s been quite a while,” Beaudot said. “It was just a beautiful night for the Esko community and our track team.”

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