Storm track finds new home in Castaic

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Take a look at any prep track and field athlete’s career in the Santa Clarita Valley, and there’s a good chance they were part of the Santa Clarita Storm track and field club growing up.

Storm has produced some of the valley’s greatest competitors, most recently including West Ranch sprinter Solomon Strader, Valencia sprinter and jumper Sam Pica and Golden Valley distance runner Daniel Rush all went through the program. Four of seven runners on this season’s Saugus girls cross-country team also ran for Storm as youths.

While finding talented athletes to compete on the track has never been a problem for Storm, finding a track for them to compete on has come with difficulties.

This year, Storm has partnered with Canyon High School and the newly-built Castaic High School for facilities, but it wasn’t without challenges.

“I’ve been working diligently for six months to try and save the program,” said Storm head coach Elaine Bingham. “It was such a relief when I got that phone call last week.”

Castaic has been generous in allowing Storm access to its facilities.

“Normally, the district has the right to wait a full year without loaning out the facility,” Bingham said. “But they’re making an exception to help save our program.”

In previous seasons, Storm has used Valencia High School as its home track. But with the addition of sports like boys and girls lacrosse in addition to the original Valencia teams needing the turf field and track, it’s left little time for outside club programs like Storm.

“We were at Valencia when it was a six-lane dirt track,” Bingham said. “The Hart District allowed the high school lacrosse teams to come in and, of course, they have priority over us. We moved to Saugus … but then they brought in lacrosse and this year they brought it at all levels, so there is no place for us to be there.”

Bingham has been realistic about the situation and recognizes that space has become an issue for high schools in the area for its own prep sports teams. Additionally, Canyon and Valencia are the only two fields with lights, leaving Golden Valley, Hart, Saugus and West Ranch to use gas-powered lights if they want to practice when the sun sets.

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In the 2019 season, Storm’s roster included 384 youth athletes that compete in the Valley Youth Conference, which includes 15 teams from the Antelope Valley to the San Fernando Valley. 

When conference competition ends in May, some Storm athletes transition to Junior Olympic competition with Valley United, a club that is recognized by USA Track and Field and that has produced national champions.

The teams can continue to use Castaic and Canyon as practice facilities in the short term. For example, Castaic only fields freshman teams, since it is the first year the school has been open. As Castaic adds JV and varsity teams in the coming years, they’ll have less resources available for programs like Storm.

Bingham said that a good long-term solution could be adding a track and field facility at Central Park.

“We were at the city council meeting last year and many of us have called the city,” Bingham said. “We need this now because here we are with the largest program in the valley unable to get practice time. We’re going into an Olympic year and this is the premier Olympic sport.”

Storm’s first practice of the season will be at Canyon High School on Feb. 15. The club will be able to have a full season this year, but beyond that, it could be starting the search for a home all over again.

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