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Campus Joe

“Campus Joe,” is a biweekly column from Oracle columnist Joe Polito that explores random spots on USF’s campus. How does it work? Polito throws a dart at a large campus map and goes there to find a story.

This week, my dart landed on the intersection of Willow and Maple drives — the location of the USF Soccer Field and Track.

Since the gate to the field is open, students should feel free to run around the track, hang out in the stands or flip onto the large green pads meant for high-jumpers and pole-vaulters.

The only person in the stadium was junior engineering major Angel Mangual.

He tried to ignore me at first — maybe because I approached him and said, “Hey, what are you doing here? Mind if I take some pictures of you?”

It’s funny how easily people become interested once you mention you’re a writer.

Mangual said he was training for his ROTC physical test while stretching on the track. Participants have to finish a mile and a half in less than 9 minutes, 30 seconds. He said he tries to come to the track once a week, but trains elsewhere if the stadium is locked.

Mangual said he prides himself on his endurance, so I challenged him to a sprint.

He beat me, but I was barefoot and had not stretched. I’ll get you next time, Mangual.

As I retrieved my flip-flops, an older man and a small boy wearing a Cadillac Williams Tampa Bay Buccaneers jersey entered the stadium. This time, I prefaced my column before questioning him.

Donald Crank, a former USF student, explained that he used to be the captain of USF’s Cross Country team from 1967 to 1970. His grandson, Luca, who hid shyly behind Crank’s legs, was getting the tour of grandpa’s old stomping grounds.

Trying to win back my dignity, I challenged Luca to a race. He was too shy to accept.

Crank informed me of the 2008 track renovations. With help from Hillsborough County, USF funded the $2.7 million revamp.

Crank said it felt worlds away from the “pavement-like” surface he and his teammates ran on in 1970.

The USF outdoor track is one of a few in the world to have this surface. It’s similar to the one at the main stadium used in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

Crank, who majored in psychology, lives in St. Louis, and he coaches cross country for a community college. He is also a lawyer in his spare time — or “when I need money,” he said.

We parted ways as he and Luca continued the nostalgic tour of the campus.

“It’s not exactly memory lane since so much has changed,” Crank said, “but it’s good to be back.”