Buchanan High secures new deal to host state track championships through 2017

The Fresno BeeJune 6, 2014 

Despite an aggressive push from Sacramento, the CIF State Track and Field Championships will remain in Clovis for three more years.

At least.

"For us to come in and know that we have an event that's going to be run like a premier championship event in California track and field, we have no worries," said Ron Nocetti, associate executive director of the California Interscholastic Federation. "We all sleep better."

Put to bed is a third three-year contract with the Clovis Unified School District, extending the stay for the nation's elite prep meet at Buchanan's Veterans Memorial Stadium through 2017.

The 96th edition of the meet began Friday with preliminaries, as temperatures reached 100 degrees. Saturday's finals will begin at 4:30 p.m.

Last year's two-day paid attendance was 17,199. The estimated annual worth to the local economy has ranged from $1.5 million to $3 million, meet officials say.

The CIF, which governs high school sports in the state, has become increasingly impressed with the management and community support after the meet for years had rotated between Sacramento's Hughes Stadium and Cerritos College in Norwalk.

"We walked in here this week and the grounds crew is apologizing that there might be four blades of grass on the field that are brown because of graduations," Nocetti says. "I mean, where do you see that? From the ground up here, there's pride that you just don't see everywhere.

"Each year, they find a way to get better; that's what makes it such a special event. I thought they did a fabulous job in the first year and probably didn't have to change a thing."

Among those standing with applause is St. Ignatius-San Francisco 23-year coach Aldo Congi: "What separates this is it's an event for people in Fresno and Clovis. It's the whole focus of the community, which it would have never been in LA or Sacramento. It's a celebration of prep track and field like no other in California."

Nocetti said a "great bid" was offered by Sacramento to stage the next three years at Sacramento State.

"It's not like Clovis doesn't have fabulous competition," he says. "It's not like we didn't have a choice.

"Frankly, whether we get pressure to move or not -- and, actually, we've had such positive feedback from coaches and fans since we started here -- we're going to choose the best venue for our kids, our coaches and our fans. And this continues to be the best venue.

"Normally, it's the opposite. The longer you're somewhere, it's 'OK, great, but let's move it and then come back.' But we haven't heard that, which is a tribute. There are a very few places where a community gets so far behind an event like this."

Meet co-director Roger Oraze, who was a longtime Clovis Unified administrator, says the district will not only continue to host the track meet, but other state events as well.

The district has managed the state cross country meet for 27 years at Woodward Park, and it recently secured a contract for the state's first swimming and diving championships next year at Clovis West.

"We feel we're blessed with quality facilities and community support," says Oraze, noting that the track meet is helped by 500 volunteers -- largely from Clovis Unified high schools.

"We're in the middle of the state, we have great facilities and volunteers who step up and work. We feel our proposals are tough to beat."

The reporter can be reached at aboogaard@fresnobee.com or @beepreps on Twitter.

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