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How the Tanque Verde High School track team runs with no track

Posted at 6:40 PM, Apr 09, 2024

TUCSON, Arizona — Tanque Verde senior Zoe Portewig started running while growing up in Texas.

"I like to to the 2-mile, but I've been working on the 1-mile as well," said Portewig.

However, when Portewig moved to Tucson, she discovered that her new high school, Tanque Verde, didn't have a track team.

"I was pretty bummed because when I lived in Austin, I liked track more than cross country, so I wanted to figure out if there was a way we could do track even if we didn't have a track," added Portewig.

That lack of a track has been the biggest impediment. So, Portewig's next run was to school administrators.

"It was a lot of approval by different higher-up people," said Portewig.

"She was the catalyst that brought it all together," said co-head coach Jerry Frey, who ran track at Oral Roberts University.

Frey met Portewig when she was a student in his A.P. environmental science class. If a track couldn't soon be built, then one could be formed. So, to mimic a track as much as possible, lines were painted on a practice field at the exact dimensions of standard track.

"Running on grass isn't running on a flat surface," said Frey. "Sometimes we have to look out for potholes and rocks and things like that."

It didn't slow down fifty runners who joined up to form a team that doesn't meet the requirements to host interscholastic meets.

"We're kind of like the underdogs," said Frey. "The reality is we have quite a few kids who will go to states."

Those students include Andrew Smith, the son of co-head coach Anna Marie Smith. The success is thanks in part to one student who took the steps to make it happen.

"It just took the right group of kids," said Frey. "And, the right administration with everyone embracing it."

"It feels pretty great because I'm a senior and about to leave to the incoming seniors will get to have a track team," added Portewig.