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As if by design, the clouds parted and rain stopped Saturday afternoon to allow the sun to shine as the official ribbon cutting took place on Neligh-Oakdale's new track.
"It's been a rainy, gloomy day, but the sun is shining on Neligh-Oakdale Public Schools and the Neligh-Oakdale track and field program today," longtime track coach Rick Eickholt said after the ribbon cutting.
Attending the special event were coaches Eickholt and Terry Trautman, along with Community Foundation members Brian Christiansen, Dana Klabenes, Becky Kerkman, Jason Krebs and Krista Schindler. Schindler also serves on the Board of Education with Brad Higgins and Kenny Reinke.
Interim Superintendent Bill Kuester was also present and thanked the board for approving the nearly half-million dollar six-lane track, along with the foundation members for their help in fundraising for additional track equipment.
Although the construction project went quickly - from approval in January to near completion in May - Kuester said this process has taken years and is the result of many, many people's hard work, especially in the last seven years.
"It's been a long time coming," Kuester said. "Thanks to Jeff Carpenter and others who were involved in fundraisers long before I came on board. This is very encouraging for our school."
The ribbon cutting was held Saturday in conjunction with the annual alumni banquet. The track's stripping - or painting - was supposed to be done last week but was pushed back due to the rain. Kuester said pending the weather, the striping will be done after Memorial Day. The drainage and dirt work around the track will be completed later as well.
Although the school district is footing the bill for the track, funds are still needed for hurdles and other equipment for the student-athletes. Christiansen said just over $30,000 has been raised, including the $14,000 Carpenter raised while he served as school board president.
In January, the board accepted a bid to install the track for $419,000. Kuester said the $419,000 did not include improving the drainage of the track, which he said is part of the reason it deteriorated years ago. The track has not been utilized for competition in years due to its deterioration and being considered a safety hazard.
With the new track, Neligh-Oakdale will be able to host meets again, although not conference or district meets since the track will only be six lanes.
"I know coaches and athletes alike are excited to be able to have this facility. We can't wait wait to compete on it," Eickholt said. "We thank anyone who had a part in making this a reality, whether it be a big part or a small part. Today is a great day."