Nielsen family helps bring community vision to life

Messenger photo by Chad Thompson Greg Thomas, Humboldt High School activities director, left, runs alongside Rick Thompson, of Humboldt, on the track inside the new Humboldt Recreation Center.

HUMBOLDT — Ken and Marilyn Nielsen’s family has always shared a passion for sports.

With their love of athletics in mind, the Nielsens wanted to do their part to help keep the Humboldt community inspired.

The Nielsens had a 71,000-square foot Recreation Center built and donated to the city of Humboldt. The center, which was completed and opened earlier in the winter, is located just north of Humboldt High School on the other side of Wildcat Road.

“Track, especially, is near and dear to the Nielsen family,” said Humboldt athletics and activities cirector Greg Thomas. “This was one of their goals. They envisioned having a track meet here at the high school level.”

Area athletes will get a chance to shine in the state-of-the-art facility on Tuesday, as Humboldt will become the first high school in the area to hold an indoor track meet.

The Wildcat girls, along with Pocahontas Area, Webster City and Gilbert, will participate in the meet — one of three held inside the venue this spring.

“Sports in general are huge for the Nielsen family,” said HRC manager Paxton Petersen. “With the lack of space for traveling teams and (general) recreation as well, they wanted to help the community and (financially supported) this wonderful facility.”

The inaugural indoor meet will start at 4:30 p.m., with the high jump on the gym floor. The shot put will be on the east end of the gym.

The 3,000 starts at approximately 4:45 p.m., and the rest of the meet gets under way at 5 p.m.

“The Rec won’t be open during the meet,” Petersen said. “We will close the facility at 3 p.m.

“The meet itself is being run by Humboldt High School, but all of our staff will be here to help with anything.”

The boys will have a six-team meet on Friday, with host Humboldt, Algona, Eagle Grove, Pocahontas Area, Webster City and Boone competing.

“We are really lucky to be able to run in such a nice facility,” said Humboldt boys track coach Greg Wickett. “We greatly appreciate the Nielsen family for their work.”

There will also be a co-ed indoor meet on March 21, with Humboldt, Forest City, Southeast Valley and Spencer.

“The Nielsens are pretty engaged in athletics, and this is a top-notch facility. Tyler, Nick and Tony (grandchildren) all ran track, and the boys were on (NCC) championship teams. Tony still holds the 400-meter dash record,” said Humboldt girls head coach Dean Clasen. “They have always invested in athletics and the track team.”

The track is 200 meters for each lap, six lanes wide on the straight-away and four lanes all the way through. Because of that, the 100-meter events — 100-meter dash and hurdle competitions — will be 60 meters.

“It’s nice to be able to run inside when it’s snowy outside, but we don’t want to get too spoiled,” Wickett laughed. “It’s great that we have access to this. We are trailblazing here at the high school level.”

A new automated timing system will be on display for the meets as well.

“The Booster Club has purchased a fully-automated timing system,” Thomas said. “We are more nervous (operating) that (without any glitches) than anything else.

“We have some things we need to work on, but we will figure it out as we go.”

There is always a learning curve with a new facility, and the first hurdle is figuring out how many teams should be involved with an indoor meet.

“We’re discussing the number of teams (moving forward),” Thomas said. “We’re really being open-minded about it, and will try to figure out if we can expand entries.”

With the temperatures and snow holding back practice outdoors, this is a great opportunity for track teams to be able to get ready for the season and fend off Mother Nature.

“It’s a tremendous advantage for student-athletes,” Thomas said. “Not only for track on a snow day, but in the middle of winter, they can go up and play basketball and do almost anything from (a sports) standpoint.

“(The Humboldt track squads) are able to go there three times a week (for an hour a day); they close down the track from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. The track surface, is top-notch and the kids can get a really good track workout.”

With the automated timing system, it also opens up new opportunities for Humboldt.

“We had a mock meet last week with the timing system and we had to work some kinks out,” Clasen said. “Mr. Thomas has been working on that, and it’s going to be very nice.

“Not having the timing system held us back from hosting a state-qualifying meet, and now that we have it and a new track surface, we can be eligible for that (in May).”