EVENSVILLE, Tenn. - Matthew Calbaugh, a senior at Rhea County High School, will find the hurdles easier to handle this year on the school's new track and football field.
"I'm glad to get the opportunity for my senior year, but sad," said Calbaugh, noting he would have liked to use it during his earlier years at the school.
Jerry Levengood, director of schools, has said the new artificial turf field cost about $967,000 but should save nearly $17,000 annually with the elimination of maintenance for mowing, watering, fertilizing and painting.
Tanner Layne, a junior, joked about not "mowing the tracks" because of the grass growing through the former rutted, cracked surface.
"Rhea County hasn't hosted a track meet since 1985," he said. "What we had was asphalt, which is just like running on the highway. Track is one of the biggest programs we've had, with close to 70 participants competing each year."
Track coach Steffan Holder said that he looked forward to hosting events on the school's home turf. He also said the smoother surface should result in fewer injuries for his team members.
Parent Debbie Morris, whose freshman daughter Sierra will have her entire high school tenure to make use of the field, said the improvements were "definitely needed" because too many people were getting hurt on the old surface.
Senior football players Jacob Revis, Jacob Matthew and Jeremy Moffett said they appreciated county officials investing in the new field, supplied by local manufacturer TenCate, and not having to navigate their final year on a muddy and slippery surface during rainy practices or games.
Revis said the move "showed us a lot of people cared."
Moffett said the new field "pushes us to win, especially at home games."