Fielding funds for school spirit

Most athletes start their workouts with a warm-up and stretching, but 17-year-old Hassan Ilyas and his track-and-field cohorts have to prep not only themselves, but the track.

Before they run, they grab shovels to remove rocks, bring in a rake to smooth the area and then stomp down the dirt, Hassan said. The whole process takes about 15 minutes if you ask Hassan — 30 if you ask his brother, 15-year-old Muaz.

Hassan said the pre-practice ritual is not as bad as it could be, but Muaz isn't so optimistic.

"[Schools with synthetic tracks are] really lucky," Muaz said. "I wish we were there."

Muaz soon won't have to covet any other school's track when Fountain Valley High School gets its own synthetic track courtesy of the Huntington Beach Union High School District. The problem is, the track isn't the only facility that needs work.

Community members have taken on an ambitious assignment to raise about $800,000 to replace the school's field before the track gets redone. The district has already budgeted about $200,000 to replace the field with natural grass, but if they can raise the money in time, it can be used for the synthetic field, said Principal Chris Herzfeld.

The fundraiser, which community members are calling the Full Speed Ahead Campaign, is a race against the clock to raise the money before the new track goes in. Once that happens, the game is over, said Steve Schultz, an English teacher and Fountain Valley High School alumni.

"It has to be done now or it can never be done," Schultz said.

Schultz and football Coach and co-Athletics Director John Shipp started the campaign in March and quickly brought Mayor Larry Crandall on board to bring "athletics on par with academics," Shipp said.

"We want to do everything we can to make our children's experience the best," he said. "What it would take is for everybody to chip in a little bit."

The group is looking to the community to step-up while soliciting big-name corporations to give money to a good cause in a kind of "your-name-here" donation.

With all the budget cuts going on in education — districts cutting music programs, laying off librarians and taking away crossing guards — fundraising for the field has been a hard sell, Schultz said. The bottom line, though, is that the field will save the school money over time on water and maintenance fees, he said.

"It's an investment in the future of our athletes, our students and our community," Schultz said.

Fountain Valley's field has been outdated for quite some time, said Shipp, who took the helm of the football team seven years ago.

The patchy oval field, with soggy muck in some places and balding in others, is uneven and has divots. And with one good rain, it could be out of commission for months, Schultz said.

The natural field requires a lot of maintenance, and its use has to be limited to let the grass re-grow, Herzfeld said.

"We have to really limit use," he said. "We can't use it for everything we want to use it for."

Only the freshman and junior varsity teams plays on it, leaving the varsity players to use the Huntington Beach High School, Orange Coast College or Westminster High School stadiums for home games. As a result, the school never has the benefit of the home court advantage.

"It's kind of a letdown because we never get to have a home game," said Brandon Moss, 17, a senior football player.

It's not just football, but soccer, band, field hockey, physical education classes and the community that would benefit from a synthetic field, Shipp said.

"Everybody on this campus uses this field," he said. "We have to get it done, and we're asking for the support of the community."

How To Help

Send a donation of the Fountain Valley Community Foundation at Fountain Valley High School, attn: Steve Schultz, 17816 Bushard St., Fountain Valley, CA 92708. In the note section, write: FVHS Full Speed Ahead

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