Van Buren was supposed to host the Class 6A state track meet in 2020, only to have the event stripped away when the coronavirus pandemic was in its early stages.
It received a second chance Thursday afternoon when it was chosen to host this spring's Class 5A state meet during the Arkansas Activities Association's site selection announcement in North Little Rock. It will be the first time Van Buren will host a state meet since it renovated its track facility in 2019 and hosted the 6A-West Conference meet that year.
"We were at track practice when athletic director, Drew Cone, texted us and told us," Van Buren Coach Hays Lemley said. "We were excited at the news. Then I told our kids that it's their job to qualify for state and let them know what it would take to get there."
Lemley knew his school had a much harder task in getting to host a Class 5A event. State meets and tournaments in Class 6A bounce between West and Central conference schools, then teams in both conferences take their turns in the rotation to host.
Van Buren won the right to host the state meet over Lake Hamilton, which was last year's meet host and held both the Class 5A and 6A state meets together in 2019.
"It's hard to count the number of times Lake Hamilton has hosted these meets," Lemley said. "So we were fortunate to get the bid. Drew Cone asked me if we wanted to host, and I told them let's go for it. So we got the process started."
"I never thought of this as a competition between us and Lake Hamilton. I thought the travel might weigh more in this matter. The only schools within an hour's drive of us are Greenwood, Siloam Springs, Alma and Russellville. A lot more schools are closer to Lake Hamilton, and I thought that's where people would want to go."
Van Buren was the only Northwest Arkansas school chosen to host a state track meet, as the Class 6A meet went to Little Rock and the 2A meet went to Quitman. No schools made bids on the 4A, 3A or 1A meets, while the Meet of Champs will be held in Russellville.
Fayetteville was chosen to host the state boys decathlon and girls heptathlon, an event it hosted at Ramay Junior High in 2019 and again last year.