SHINGLEHOUSE — For years, Oswayo Valley High School has been among District 9’s best small school track and field teams.
They constantly had some of the top performers in regular season North Tier League meets, and went on to have plenty of individual successes at the D9 and PIAA state levels.
But one thing those proud track and field athletes didn’t have in recent years was … a track.
After falling into such disrepair that opposing schools often wouldn’t travel to Shinglehouse for meets, the Green Wave almost exclusively did their runs, jumps and throws on the road.
“There was a track (in Shinglehouse) but we called it the “kitty litter” track and we usually didn’t have home meets because nobody wanted to run on it and it was really slow and hurt their times,” Bruce Kemp said. “But we still practiced on it.”
So Kemp, a former track coach with the Green Wave and a current biology and chemistry teacher at Oswayo Valley Middle/High School, began formulating plans in 2007 to build a brand new track.
He started the process by calling around to others who had built high school tracks and got a swift dose of reality on the other end of one such call.
“I made a call to a guy over in Sheffield and they had put a track in and one of the first things he said to me was, ‘Good luck and I just want to let you know that is going to take you at least 10 years.’ I said (there’s no way) and we could do it faster than that. Well, I think it ended up taking us 11.”
Kemp, who helped to found and became president of T.R.A.C.K. (Together Rebuilding: Alumni, Community & Kids), got the ball rolling on the formidable task in August 2007 after several Oswayo Valley athletes who had done well at the state meet asked if upgrades could be made to the track.
What came next was a nearly $550,000 project, a community coming together to support it, and a whole lot of fundraising.
THE BIGGEST and most substantial fundraiser for Oswayo Valley’s new track was a log cabin.
The cabin was built in a year by several community members that knew construction and the the progress on the new facility officially reached new heights.
“We sold raffle tickets for $50 and went all around to different trade shows and events to sell them,” Kemp recalled.
“The best part was that we had Channel 4 (WIVB-TV, Buffalo) interview us about it and the Buffalo area bought, oh my gosh, I don’t even know but I got like five days in a row with $10,000 and people from that area bought all kinds of tickets.”
The log cabin project brought T.R.A.C.K. from “being in the red,” to making over $80,000 in profits, according to Kemp. The winning ticket for the cabin was purchased by a man from Harrisburg who still uses the property to vacation at a couple times a year.
And while the log cabin was profitable — and certainly unique — Kemp and his organization had a ways to go before reaching their lofty mark of over half a million dollars.
“Well, really the revenue streams came from three entities: I think the school put in a little over $50,000, the Norton Trust put in $80,000 initially and then another $100,000 and then we had the rest.
“But if it wasn’t for the Norton Grant and the school board being supportive in putting in that last amount of money, it wouldn’t have happened.”
The Norton Trust, as Kemp explained, was set up by Bill and Margaret Norton after their passings as a yearly fund to leave money to be used for capital projects in the community and to give away over $100,000 each year to organizations in the Shinglehouse area.
“They’ve helped to pave the firehall and update the library and things like that,” Kemp said. “Their trust every year helps jump-start Shinglehouse and they are an amazing family.”
FOR as much help as big donations and organizations were to the completion of the track, it couldn’t have been done without the generosity of Shinglehouse residents, according to Kemp.
For years, they showed up at chicken barbecues, bake sales and chipped in for 50/50 raffles to support the new track, which was built in phases and officially put its first shovel to the dirt with a groundbreaking ceremony in June 2016.
“The community got behind it and that’s why it happened,” Kemp said. “It was fascinating to watch and I’m glad to have been a part of it — just a small part — because there were so many people who worked to make it happen.”
The track, located adjacent to the Oswayo Valley Middle/High School, is open to the public and has been utilized by many community members since the final line was painted on it in late May.
And next spring, athletes from high schools all over District 9 will once again head to Shinglehouse as the Oswayo Valley boys and girls track teams can once again host meets.
“It was a huge relief and I’m thrilled,” Kemp said about the last steps of construction. “I check it everyday and since they put the lines on it I don’t think there’s been a day without use.
“That was not the case before and you rarely saw anyone use it because it was in such disrepair...now people are there using it everyday.”