A 20-year arrangement permitting a children's athletic club to share the track facilities at Kennedy High School may come to an end because of a dispute both sides call personal and petty.
High school athletic officials want the North Valley Golden Bears to find somewhere else to practice. Earle Charles, president of the club, one of about a dozen in the nonprofit Valley Youth Conference, said the club has nowhere else to go and may not survive if ousted.
"They want us out and will do and say anything to get us out," he said.
Charles said Golden Bears supporters have collected about 1,000 signatures on a petition asking school officials to allow the team to stay.
For their part, some Kennedy coaches have gone so far as to threaten to quit coaching if the Golden Bears don't go, said former Kennedy principal Andreda Pruitt.
"It's gotten to the point now that it's almost personal," said Craig Raub, chairman of Kennedy's physical education department, who argues that Kennedy needs a break from sharing the track.
The Bears teams include basketball, football and track teams for about 170 children ages 5 to 15. The children practice in the evenings after the school's athletic teams have gone home. Complicating the situation is that Pruitt was recently transferred to another school.
Pruitt said she planned to allow the Bears one more season at Kennedy, but now the decision has fallen to new principal Steve Quon, who said he is reviewing the matter and will decide next fall.
Kennedy athletics officials cite a number of complaints against the Golden Bears: The clubs wear out the track and turf and don't put back the hurdles, they allege. The Bears' Saturday meets bring hundreds of onlookers and competitors on campus, and Raub contends that the meets contribute to problems with graffiti and vandalism on campus.
"Nothing is so big and acute. What happens is we just get tired of dealing with the same thing over and over," said Kennedy Assistant Principal Mike McConahey.
Charles denied that the Golden Bears are wearing out the track and said other problems could be easily worked out.
"There is no reason for us not to run on the dirt that's there, that's really all it is," he said.