New base track opens with a winning start

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. John Hughel
  • 142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Oregon is known internationally for Track and Field excellence, from trailblazing legend Steve Prefontaine, to Olympians Alberto Salazar, Mary Decker Slaney and Galen Rupp. On July 26, Oregon Air National Guardsman Staff Sgt. Alan Plank can be added to the list of 'Oregon Groundbreaking Runners' as he crossed the finish line to win the inaugural race held on the recently completed track here at the Portland Air National Guard Base.

The new $297,000.00 base track is the first of many new athletic maintenance projects to be completed, with a pavilion and baseball field to soon be constructed. With four lanes and an all-weather surface, the inside lane is a quarter-mile loop to accommodate the 1.5-mile Air Force fitness test.

Plank, representing the 142nd Maintenance Group was one of five runners selected from each of the main organizational groups that make up the 142nd Fighter Wing elements of Maintenance, Operations (represented by Tech. Sgt. Justin Comfort) , Mission Support (represented by Senior Airman Christopher Alesko), Medical (represented by Staff Sgt. Breland Reed) and Headquarters (represented by Staff Sgt. Andrew Hensley).

In typical Oregon fashion, the sun had just broken through the heavy mid-morning clouds as the runners toed the line. With an M-4 round fired by the Security Forces, the racers fought for the inside lane, forming a tight bunch for the first half of the race. Plank made his move going into the third turn and completed the quarter mile with a time of 00:57.06 seconds.

"I am happy and excited that we now have this track on base," Plank said. "The composite surface is easier on the joints from the typical hard pavement roads on base we normally run and train on."

As part of the Comprehensive Airman Fitness (CAF) program, Plank has been teaching running clinics twice a week on base and will incorporate the track with the runners he has been training. Growing up in Idaho, he competed as a sprinter and pole vaulter in high school. Joining the Oregon Air Guard after active duty, he recently returned to his current job in Avionics after spending seven years as a Combat Controller with the 125th Special Tactics Squadron, to include two deployments to Afghanistan.  

"With fitness being a priority in the Air Force, having the track on base now emphasizes that commitment," said Plank.

The project began with a wing-wide survey about what type of track in terms of size and circumference the Airmen wanted here. After the design phase, ground was broken in May and completed in six weeks.

"The project is funded by NGB [National Guard Bureau] resources as part of the maintenance, repair and construction budget," said Mike Godsey, property manager with 142nd Civil Engineer Squadron. "For the Wing, the new track was a priority and began once the weather allowed the contractor to install the project."

After the initial race was completed, Wing Commander Col. Paul Fitzgerald and Command Chief Master Sgt. Chris Roper led a group of runners for a ceremonial loop around the track. Airmen and staff jogged around the bright amber-orange surface to officially close the afternoon activities. 

During the prerace opening remarks, Fitzgerald said that the new track is an integral part of health and readiness. "As you come in the gate and out the gate, you see this track - it demonstrates how important fitness is to us Redhawks."