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Southeast formally cuts ribbon on new all-weather track

Southeast formally cuts ribbon on new all-weather track


By Susan Jenior

Staff Writer


The opening ceremony for the new Southeast Local Schools’ all-weather track hit all the right notes as school officials, board members, community members and a who’s who in the Portage County track community gathered to help the Pirates celebrate on Tuesday.

The band was in the bleachers to play the Star Spangled Banner as the ceremonies began.

Pat Youel, Southeast athletic director, welcomed everyone including businesses, community members and school officials together at the starting line for the ribbon-cutting ceremony before Bob Dunn, Superintendent, took over the microphone.

“Sometimes you do something alone to get it done quick,” said Dunn. “But sometimes you work together to get something done well.”

That is what happened when S.P.A.C.E., the Southeast school district and the community worked together to complete a new track.

For more than 15 years, Southeast athletes had not enjoyed having home meets or practicing on a quality track.

That changed with the building of the new all-weather track thanks to the combined efforts of the community, businesses, school and administration.

S.P.A.C.E. (Southeast Pirates Athletic Community Endeavor) representative Lori Sapp thanked everyone and introduced the local businesses and companies instrumental to the building of the track, including Six2 Excavating, United Earthworks and the Hoover Fence Company.

The Southeast track is now officially named the Smith Family Track thanks to the generosity of the family that has done so much toward making the new track a success.



Waiting for the track meet to start between Rootstown and Southeast were many notable members of the Portage County track and field community.

Dick Young, longtime Southeast athletic director, who is now since retired; Frank Rossi, retired Waterloo teacher and track coach and retired Southeast teacher and track coach Cindy Fesemyer. All three enjoyed the camaraderie of coaching throughout their careers and made it a point to be together at Southeast on Tuesday for the big moment.

Also in attendance was longtime Rootstown coach Larry Bailey, naturally, since the Pirates hosted the Rovers in the ceremonial track meet. Bailey is now in his 40th season leading the Rovers’ boys track program.

It was a nice turnaround for the two schools — within 10 miles of each other — since Southeast was the first opponent for the Rovers on their new track just two seasons ago in 2022.

Tonja (Stewart) Shaw was the OHSAA official for the track meet, a nice homecoming for the Southeast alumnus, who won the state championship in the 800 meters in 1984.

Joanna (Dias) Ripple, a member of the two-time state champion 4×800 relay team in 1985 and 1986, was also in attendance on Tuesday.


Left to right: Southeast principal Steve Sigworth, athletic director and assistant principal Patrick Youel and Superintendent Bob Dunn.

Fesemyer set up a booth that included clippings from newspapers, photos and memorabilia that included batons, plaques and track shoes — all to remember and recognize the historical success of the school’s track and field program.

Former track athletes provided their own trophies and photos to help complete the walk down memory lane that found many people looking through the scrapbooks and enjoying the memories.



The whole purpose of the opening ceremonies led toward the return of competition on the track and that featured the Pirates hosting longtime rival Rootstown.

Rootstown’s Porter Smith leads the pack during the 100-meter hurdles.

The meet started with the girls and boys 4×800 as athletes gathered on the track for the first time.

By the end of the meet, Rootstown won both the girls (76-52) and boys (90.5-37.5) competitions.

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