By James Whalley

Staff writer

BOARDMAN — There were a few non-believers that doubted a small community could raise the funds necessary for such an enormous project.

That was all the motivation the residents of Boardman and Irrigon needed to unite and make their dream a reality. Now, with help from footwear giant Nike, Riverside High School is the new home of the first all-weather track in Morrow County.

“Some people say they want to do something for the kids, but never really walk the walk.” said Julie Wiekel during her dedication speech last Monday.

Beaverton based Nike became involved through an application process for a matching grants program that has been in place since 1999. According to the Nike Foundation Global Grants Manager Bob Speltz, his department receives 40-50 applications each year from schools around the country. Since its inception the program has awarded nine grants, with over half of those going to communities in Oregon.

Through the matching grants program, Nike was able to double the $50,000 raised by the Boardman/Irrigon community to assist in the completion of the project.

Nike has a long and storied history in track and field, so it was no surprise that they were involved in a project of this nature, but why was the rural high school in Boardman chosen above all other applicants?

“They gave us all the information that we asked for, and that in itself can be taxing enough.” Speltz continued.

“They really made the decision easy for us. They told us why the track was important and who would benefit. They said it could not only serve their needs, but also the needs of the entire county.”

Heading the track project was the Track Committee Chairperson Glaya Baker. By all accounts Mrs. Baker was the driving force behind the project, but the humble chairperson deferred all praise to the many volunteers throughout the community.

“The volunteers on this project were really determined and did all that they could to make this a reality.” said Baker.

“From the many residents, to the track team themselves, they all deserve a lot of credit for their time and efforts, they were phenomenal.”

In past seasons the Riverside track and field program has flourished despite having to utilize outdated equipment and an inferior track surface.

This season not only culminated in multiple athletes earning state appearances, but also produced Riverside High’s first ever 3A state champion, Keith Baker.

Armed with a new state of the art facility, the Riverside Pirates track team will enter next season with something they haven’t had in recent memory, a home field advantage.

(For the complete story, see the July 3 edition of The Hermiston Herald).

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