A BID to save a county’s only accredited athletics track has raised nearly £100,000, and campaigners are now hopeful they can save it.
The scheme to upgrade the Herefordshire Leisure Centre track in Hereford was launched in November and backed by local Woolhope-raised Olympians, the Tooby twins, plus Susan Tooby’s world 1500m champion son Jake Wightman and his coach and father Geoff Wightman.
The 400m track laid in 1988, which the family have trained on and is the nearest to Ross and Monmouth, needs to be relaid, and will cost around £350,000.
But on the back of the campaign, England Athletics have granted a permit to host competitions this year, says campaigner Ben Skinner.
Local athletes worried that without an upgrade England Athletics wouldn’t grant the permit, but that hurdle seems to have been cleared, at least for now.
“To be close to £100,000, we’re really pleased,” Ben told the BBC.
“They can see we are being proactive on our approach. But we will get to a point in the coming years that without the investment we will not be able to host further competitions.”
If the facility was lost, it would leave Herefordshire as the only county in England not to have an accredited competition track.
Jake Wightman, who stormed to world title glory in the US last July, posted in January: “Hoping the total can be made. With family deep rooted in Herefordshire and athletics, this would be a great loss.”
Susan’s husband and Jake’s father Geoff, a GB champion marathon runner in his younger days, said in January: “It would be shameful for Herefordshire to be the only county in England not able to host athletics.
“It’s a pretty well-used track, all round. There’s school opportunities, there’s club opportunities.
“But... competition is the thing that keeps you going. It took my wife and her sister Angela from that track to the Olympic Games in 1988, so you just never know who you’re encouraging.
“I think Jake’s actually trained on that track, he may not remember it, it was a long time ago. I think it just needs the good will at a reasonably high level within Herefordshire for this to gain traction. It’ll be a negative story coming out of Herefordshire and I don’t think anybody wants that.”
Jake’s grandmother Rosemary, who died last year, was an avid supporter of British Athletics, travelling the world in support of her daughters and grandchildren.
She spent most of her life working for outward bound firm PGL based in Ross.
Hereford City Council has pledged £70,000 and a local athletics club £10,000.
“We’ve had some really good discussions with other groups, everyone seems to be keen to be involved,” added Ben.
Halo Leisure, which looks after the track, said it was meeting regularly with the local athletics club and other user groups over the resurfacing of the track.