Run, run, run as fast as you can
New indoor track facility is ‘among the best in the country’
Liberty University will hold a grand opening for its newly-completed indoor track complex Jan. 28 at 10:30 a.m. before hosting the Darius Dixon Memorial Invitational.
According to the Liberty University News Service, President Jerry Falwell Jr., Athletic Director Ian McCaw and Liberty Track and Field Head Coach Brant Tolsma will be in attendance.
Liberty runners will then compete against more than 20 other schools on the second day of the two-day invitational beginning Jan. 29.
Located off Candler’s Mountain Road, the 169,000-square-foot facility includes many features Tolsma said makes it among the best in the country.
“Maybe one or two other schools in the country could boast that they have something similar,” Tolsma said.
Liberty unofficially opened the complex Friday, Jan. 13 when it hosted the high-school-level Virginia Showcase where two schools broke national records during the event.
Senior Associate Athletics Director of Internal Operations Mickey Guridy thinks the showcase shows the great potential for the facility.
“It was phenomenal,” Guridy said. “It was a great event to have. It was a little ambitious for the first meet — I think they had over 3,000 athletes out there and about 300 coaches — so from the get-go, managing the facility from the start was a little challenging.”
According to Liberty Athletics, the new facility features many utilities and rooms for the athletes, including an eight-lane, 100-meter track, spectator seating for 1,500 and a six-lane, 200-meter, hydraulically-banked oval.
Tolsma, who holds a master’s degree in hydraulic engineering from the University of Michigan, explained that the hydraulic cylinders will be used to move the track based upon the specific race or event being held.
“The track has 72 hydraulic cylinders underneath it that create force that raises the track to various positions, so you can put the track at a bank that’s most appropriate for how fast you’re running,” Tolsma said.
Tolsma said the complex is only the seventh hydraulically-banked track in the country.
The new building also includes a 6,000-square-foot weight room as well as a 3,000-square-foot training room for the runners.
“The Liberty Indoor Track and Field Complex may be the best collegiate facility in the nation, and we look forward to hosting top regional, national and international competitions in the years to come,” McCaw said.
Tolsma said talks of building a new indoor track facility began in 2012 due to the school of communication showing desire to use the space where the old track and field was located in Green Hall.
Eventually, plans were finalized in the fall of 2015 to build a new indoor track facility with the goal of opening in 2017 and the idea of boosting recruiting for the track and field program in mind.
“It will be a huge help for recruiting athletes because when they see and use the track at their events they will want to learn more about what training and going to Liberty would be like,” Tolsma said.
Guridy said the new building would attract a variety of events — including national ones — and help with current contracts, such as the Commonwealth Games, which Liberty hosts annually.
“We’ve had track folks from all over the country saying this is a phenomenal place, especially on the East Coast,” Guridy said.
Student track runners Colin Schultz and Michael Todd are just a few of the team members who have gotten to use the new facilities.
“We have one of the nicest tracks in the nation and a nice weight room,” Todd said.
“The training room is really nice.”
Schultz said the building will push the athletes to continue breaking records and raising the bar.
“As you get a better facility you’re going to have better recruits, obviously,” Schultz said.
“The quality of athletes is going to rise, and everyone on the team has big, excited eyes and are just ready to run fast because we have this amazing facility.”
Tolsma said the new facilities will push the team to perform on another level.
“I tell the athletes, ‘Where much is given, much is required,’ so we have to turn up our commitment and our seriousness as much as we can,” Tolsma said.
“But that’s just exciting because kids tend to learn in proportion to their commitment, and this kind of facility demands commitment.”
The complex will not be solely for runners, as a swimming center is currently being installed.
“Beyond the track itself is an aquatics center that will be added for women’s swimming and the men’s club program, and that will also be used for other people who want to rent it out and have swim meets there too,” Guridy said.
“I get questions all the time of ‘when is your aquatics facility coming online?’ So it’s going to be used very heavily.”
Tolsma said the new track shows the commitment Liberty has for the track program.
“The school doesn’t invest in this kind of commitment to the sport of track and field unless they’re really supporting their athletics,” Tolsma said.
“I feel very privileged and honored and humbled to see that kind of support for us.”
Since the complex is so new, there are still adjustments to be made, but the runners will soon be on track to more success.
“The one detriment that we have to fight against is to keep our athletes from developing an entitlement attitude,” Tolsma said.
“An athlete who is not thankful, an athlete that feels entitled is one that is setting himself up for failure, and we don’t want to see that happen.”
Tolsma said this new complex is beyond what he could have imagined when he took over the track and field program at Liberty, and he has high hopes for the future of the program.
“If someone were to ask me 30 years ago to write down what I would like to have in 30 years, I would have asked for much less than this,” Tolsma said.
“It’s beyond what I dared to dream.”