The Fred Hardy Invitational at Fork Union Military Academy has deep roots as the launching pad for the indoor track season in the state of Virginia.
It goes way back to when Fork Union built the Estes Center back in the late 1980s, convincing school leadership to put a track in instead of a wood floor.
“When Fred Hardy got them to do that, it was one of the only indoor tracks in the state and certainly the most accessible for high school kids,” said Fork Union track coach Winston Brown. “It was called the Fork Union Invitational.”
The meet was renamed a decade ago and became the Fred Hardy Invitational and is now celebrating its 30th anniversary.
This year the meet will welcome more than 40 schools, sharing the weekend with the return of a high school meet in Lexington at VMI’s recently renovated track facility.
While there are larger tracks out there now, the Fred Hardy remains a fixture in the early season, a chance for student athletes to transition to the track season where indoor will morph into outdoor and on into the state championships late in the spring and early summer.
“It’s a great way for us to kind of center ourselves,” Brown said.
Fork Union itself will feature another year of multi-event star Will Stupalsky.
“He has been amazing,” Brown said. “The track team at Fork Union has a great tradition and these kids have done a great job sustaining that.”
Last year at the VISAA indoor championships, Stupalsky finished second in the high jump and pole vault, third in the triple jump, took fourth in the 55-meter hurdles and grabbed fifth in the high jump.
They’ve also got Harrison Duncan, who placed in the state’s top five last year in the long jump, triple jump and 55-hurdles and sprinter Daniel Reynolds.
“He’s a wonderful young man, ran a 6.60 for 55-dash,” Brown said.
Other local standouts set to participate include sprinter and jumper Susannah Birle of Charlottesville and the reemergence of Albemarle’s distance and middle distance group on the boys side after a strong cross country season. Albemarle, Charlottesville, Fluvanna and Monticello are all set to send delegations to the event.
There’s also Huguenot’s Tailey Tofoi, a sprinter who was among the state’s best a year ago and Sam Quesenberry of Turner Ashby in the 500 who should be fun to watch.
A lot has changed in indoor track across the state in the last 30 years, but the Fred Hardy Invitational remains a constant. A pioneer early on is now a fixture.