Kevin Kim- Staff Writer
CLEVELAND, OH- The Berea College Soccer Field in the Berea College Sports Complex, the home of the Berea College Men's and Women's Soccer teams, has been selected as a winner of a Pioneer Athletics' Fields of Excellence award for the second consecutive year.
The Fields of Excellence award program honors outstanding athletic fields and the hardworking crew members who diligently maintains them throughout the year. This award was established in 1997 and has honored over 900 athletics fields from around the country since its conception. Berea College was named one of the 91 winners of the 2018 Fields of Excellence awards.
Eric Harshman and Dewey Williams are the primary managers of the playing surfaces down at the Berea College Athletic Complex, which include the track and field, soccer, baseball, and softball fields. Harshman says that the help from his student-workers (Andrew Akins, Bryce Zachary, Isaac Caudill, and Kingsley Basoah), and the work with coaches are critical of their success.
"The aspect of turf management I try to instill in all of our workers, whether it is with my athletic grounds staff or campus grounds staff, is the sense of pride in our work," said Harshman." "Ultimately we are leaving a mark on campus with the work we do, especially for our student-workers that are also student-athletes, they are playing a hand in the student-athlete experience for their peers and for themselves. When someone takes pride in their work, it shows the hard-work and effort put into what they are doing, which I feel is essential to any job well done."
The Berea College Soccer Field features a unique cross-seeding of Bermuda and Bluegrass grass, which is popularly becoming known as "Bluemuda" in the turf world. Because of the transitional climate of the state of Kentucky, it is known to be one of the hardest places to grow grass, as the cold weather does not give Bermuda a long prime-season, and the heat during the summer is not beneficial to cool season grasses such as Rye and Bent. The Bluemuda is a concept which allows the Bermuda and the Bluegrass to co-exist with one another, the Bluegrass thrives during the cold weather months, while the Bermuda flourishes during the warmer weather months.
"We started the process of re-seeding the soccer field two-years ago, doing some archaic and rough techniques to give us a new foundation to grow grass," Harshman said. "We began the renovation process by completely spraying out all existing grass and weeds and seeding Riviera Bermuda two summers ago, and now recently over-seeding the field with Bluegrass this past October. This process has given us the results we were hoping for, and we continue to work hard to make our playing surfaces one of the best in the state."
When asked about the importance of good playing surfaces outside of the aesthetic aspect, Harshman was quick to respond with safety for the student-athletes. "Safety of the playing surfaces is always on our minds when we do new projects," Harshman said. "When I first took over the athletic playing fields, soccer was one of the major safety concerns. There was not a consistent playing surface with all the different grasses and weeds growing on the field, it would have been easy to roll an ankle on the uneven surface. Because of this, it was crucial for us to renovate the field, and provide a safe and aesthetically pleasing playing surface. And though hard work and attention to detail, I believe we have achieved just that."
Aside from the second consecutive Pioneer Athletics' Fields of Excellence award, Harshman said his staff and him are excited to see the soccer teams being able to practice on the field in the spring season for the first time. "This sounds crazy, but our athletic department wants our fields to be used year-round. We work hard on it, not for it to just be aesthetically pleasing, but so we can have athletes safely playing on it, and enjoy their experience. Dewey and his student-workers do not work day-in and day-out for people to just look at the fields, we want people to play on them and enjoy all the hard work put into it."
Harshman and his staff are not done with the Berea College Sports Complex just yet. They plan to build an equipment barn at the BC Sports Complex to make the storage of equipment, mowers, and chemicals more efficient. They also plan to continue to work on improving the drainage system on all of the fields, as well as other projects such as rebuilding the bullpens of the baseball and softball fields. The soccer field will also continue to improve through the implementation of regular topdressing and seeding to keep the surface level and consistent.
Pioneer is the nation's leading manufacturer of athletic field marking paint and equipment. Pioneer's line-up of field paints, striping machines, stencils and athletic accessories are used by over 22,000 high schools, colleges and professional athletic organizations throughout North America.