The running track at Paul R. Wharton High is still crumbling apart while students, parents and other members of the community continue to text and send their votes online to try to win a grant to purchase a new one.

New Tampa’s first high school is competing in the Pepsi Refresh Project, an on-line grant program which donates millions of dollars to projects intended to improve communities through an online voting process. Wharton is in the running to be one of the finalists against other schools for $50,000 in funding.

The Wharton Track and Field program, led by Hillsborough County’s reigning Track Coach of the Year Wes Newton, has had a consistent history of excellence, with 17 District and Regional championships, and two state runner-up finishes, in Newton’s 15-year run as Wharton’s only boys track coach.

Newton has said that in order to continue this tradition of excellence, the track is in dire need of a resurfacing. The track has never been resurfaced since the school opened in 1996 and Newton says the condition of the track is a major problem. Its uneven lanes and poor drainage is a constant problem for training and increases the risk of injury among the school’s runners.

“We’ve known for a long time that we needed to replace the track,” says Wharton principal Brad Woods. “So, when do resurface it, we are going to do it right. Now is the time to do it.”

The Wharton Track Resurfacing Committee, composed of administrators, coaches, parents and students, is raising funds in order to construct a new 8-lane, polyurethane, UV-resistant- coated, synthetic track.

“You can see that the current track needs to be replaced,” Newton says. “There have been more than 200 meets on it and it has taken a beating. We need a new track.”

The oval is in such rough shape that Newton will not allow the school’s runners to practice on it. Instead, the coach has the team do their training on the grass of the football field, which is much more forgiving to their shins.

Among the benefits to resurfacing Wharton’s Track are:

• For Student-Athletes: Rubberized tracks have proven to reduce injury

• For The Environment: Rubberized tracks utilize recycled materials

• For The Community: A new track will allow the school and community to host major track meets drawing teams from around the state, thus bringing in revenue to local businesses

• For Wharton High: A new track alsso would benefit the entire school, as all students utilize the track during their high school careers for everything from HOPE class to Athletics.

Wharton’s Track Resurfacing Committee is currently seeking private and corporate donations, as well as the Pepsi Refresh grant to meet the committee’s fund-raising goal of $99,000, which is how much Newton says the new track would cost.

To place a vote for Wharton High to win grant money for a new track, text 110786 to “Pepsi” (73774) and vote for the “Project S.O.S. resurfacing initiative.”

For more information about the Pepsi Refresh Project, visit or email — Sean Bowes

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