BY CHAD DARE
Four years ago, Danville hosted its first outdoor track event in more than 20 years.
It was a simple dual against Champaign Central that christened the new all-weather track complex one block north of the high school.
It was a monumental day for the track programs at Danville High School and this Saturday, the facility, which is now officially named the Wayland-Young Athletic Facility, will host the inaugural John Eakle Invitational.
“This is kind of a culmination of a lot of hard work by countless individuals,’’ said B.J. Luke, athletics director and girls track coach at Danville High. “It’s been a whole community effort to get this complex to this point.
“With the naming of the facility and having it being done on the day that we host an invite after the guy that has coached so many athletes in track and field at Danville. It makes for a special day.’’
The Danville District 118 School Board officially approved the naming of facility at Wednesday’s meeting and the board thanked Lou Ann Wayland-Young, a Danville resident and a member of the Danville Class of 1942, for her donation.
According to the school’s official release, “Mrs. Young has made a give of $100,000 to the school district for further improvements and equipment at the new athletic facility, a gift at the level that qualifies for facility naming rights. Mrs. Young requested to name the facility in honor of her brother, William E. Wayland Jr., and her late husband, Andrew A. Young, who died in 1995.’’
Wayland was a teacher, coach and administrator in the school district, while Young, a graduate of Oakwood, was a track athlete at Illinois State Normal University, earning three varsity letters.
Danville assistant track coach Debi Hosch, who is the daughter of Wayland and the niece of Wayland-Young, admitted this is a very special event for the school and the community.
“Lou Ann Wayland-Young, put the cap on the some of the things that were needed around this facility,’’ Hosch said. “Her husband (Andrew A. Young) was a great track athlete that got to attend college because of track.
“She has a big heart for Danville High School and a big heart for track and field, and a big heart for her brother Bill Wayland.’’
Luke pointed out that Lou Ann Wayland-Young still attends Danville football games and other activities around the school.
“That family is one of the prominent educational and sports families in Danville,’’ he said. “It’s awesome that she is honoring her late husband and her brother this way.’’
And Saturday’s dedication ceremonies will take place before the first-ever John Eakle Invitational, sponsored by Toyota of Danville.
Ironically, Eakle, a former track coach at Danville, and William Wayland headed up the committee that started this track project more than a decade ago.
“It’s very fitting to be honoring both of those guys on the same day,’’ Luke said.
And they not only did they play a big role in the development of the Wayland-Young Athletic Facility, Luke said they also shaped his coaching philosophy.
“Coach Eakle kind of set the standard for how I coach,’’ Luke said. “He was a guy that was stickler for details. You had to be on time, you do what you are supposed to do. If you didn’t, you didn’t get to participate. It instilled some values that are still important today.
“Coach Wayland is another guy that was important to a lot of us growing up in Danville. He was a principal at North Ridge and he was always very interested in what kids did in Danville.’’
Steve Luke, the boys track coach at Danville, admits that this first invitational has been in the works for a while.
“We are starting a small scale, but it’s kind of exciting to know that we can host something like this,’’ he said as the Inaugural John Eakle Invitational has four or five schools for this year. “We are going to follow this up with the Big 12 Championships for boys in May.
“This is a showcase of what we’ve done here in Danville.’’
Steve Luke points out that all of the hard work by many members of the community is very reminiscent of what coach Eakle did for him and almost every athlete that ran track at Danville.
“It’s hard to find somebody that ran for coach Eakle, that wouldn’t be able to tell you the influence that he had on their life,’’ Steve Luke said. “Coach Eakle taught us how to work this way. When I was in high school, I didn’t think much about it at the time, but we needed places to practice. Coach would drive us over to the Armory in Champaign a couple times a week. We wouldn’t get back until 9 o’clock at night.
“It wasn’t until I had a family and started coaching, that I realized the commitment he gave us.
“We’ve put a lot of hard work and effort into it to give Danville a first-rate facility, and we’ve put out a couple first-rate teams that represent Danville very well.’’
And now those teams will get the opportunity this Saturday to compete in the first track invitational to be held in Danville in more than two decades.
“We have some really fine track athletes here in Danville and we’re bringing in some fast kids to race,’’ B.J. Luke said. “There will be some good meet records and track records set on Saturday.’’
In the school history, Danville has had 16 individual state champions, one relay state championship to go along with 108 individual state place-winners and 24 state-placing relays.
Field events are scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday with running events set for 10:30.