For the 41st year, the Fallon Elks Invitational hits the track.
The second-largest and second-longest running meet in Northern Nevada features more than 20 schools this year and kicks off at 9 a.m. on Saturday at the Edward Arciniega Complex.
Fallon boys coach Steve Heck and girls coach Paul Orong said the Elks is when the season really begins. The past two weeks the Greenwave coaches have used meets in Fernley and Silver Springs as an indicator of where their athletes will compete.
In addition, Heck said practice is used for getting into shape and working on technique in the various events.
“The fact we are able to bring in a large amount of schools shows the quality,” Heck said. “We got great volunteers who come back every year. We don’t have amateurs out there. I think it’s one of the best meets in Northern Nevada.”
The meet is sponsored by the Fallon Elks Lodge, which organizes the event with dozens of volunteers. Heck, who has been a coach or athlete in nearly half (18) of the Elks meets, said he tries to round up between 50-75 people to work the meet.
“Us and the Reed Invitational are the best invitationals,” Orong said. “We get about 1,200 kids … and really it’s the first time where you see how you’re going to shape up. This is where the season starts.”
The old track, which was replaced two years ago, developed holes and cracks that runners had to avoid. Now the track has been replaced, Heck said some of those schools who withdrew have returned now that Fallon has one of the top facilities in the region.
This season Fallon has upgraded its high jump and pole vault pits and new runways. A future project for Heck and Orong, though, is to obtain new hurdles and eventually build another runway to run parallel to the grandstand.
“We just want to upgrade the facility and running good meets,” Heck said.
Even with upgrades to the track, several Division I schools in Reno bailed on the meet this season. Nevertheless, more than 20 schools will compete at the invitational making it the second largest regular-season meet in the North. Only the two-day Reed Invitational is larger.
Heck and Orong, though, do have eyes for expansion and extended invites to Del Oro High School in Loomis, Calif., several years ago. Fallon crosses the Sierra twice a year to compete in Del Oro and one other California meet, so Heck and Orong thought an invitation to some of those schools would be in order.
Those schools, however, have yet to make the trek to Fallon in large part because of the schizophrenic weather in the Sierra. Hopefully, Heck and Orong said, they will be able to bring in competition from northern California.
“It’s tough to lure them because they have to come over the mountain,” Heck said. “Secondly, in the Sacramento area there are meets all over the place. I think everybody here would enjoy having some of those schools over here.”
While the California hopes are on hold, Orong said the Elks meet raises the intensity level of the athletes.