Student enjoying the Turf
New synthetic surface a big hit on Hughson High campus

March 26, 2024

A new synthetic surface has become a huge draw at Hughson High School – not just for the athletes who practice on it, but for the students who enjoy it recreationally at lunchtime every day.

The idea was the brainchild of Principal Loren Lighthall, who said he was inspired after he saw a smaller patch of artificial turf at Ripon High School while he was attending a track meet last year. Positioned near the grass football field, Ripon’s turf space was used primarily by youngsters to play catch during football season.

“I thought we could do something like this on a bigger scale at our school,” explained Lighthall.

He identified a spot 35 yards by 30 yards not far from one of the weight rooms used by many Husky athletes. Money to pay for the synthetic surface was contributed from the football, soccer and track programs, plus sports boosters, the student leadership team at the high school and the school board.

“It is being used extensively for training -- flipping tires, sleds, etc.,” Lighthall said. “Baseball has taken infield on it, soccer has used it during the rainy part of their season, track has used it for speed workouts, and football will use it in the fall. All outdoor sports and PE will benefit from having it here.”

The synthetic surface comes in especially handy during bad weather.

“We can’t just cancel practices every time it rains to stay off the grass,” Lighthall said. “Now there is a safe place to practice and we don’t have to tear up our practice areas during the rain.”

The spot’s central location on campus also has made it a magnet for lunchtime activities.

“There is a large group of kids who use it for football and soccer every day at lunch,” Lighthall said. “People come out to watch and it is a ton of fun.”

Leland Luhdorff, one of the students who helps organize the football games at lunch, called the turf “awesome!”

“When Mr. Lighthall told me we were getting it, I thought no way,” Luhdorff said. “I knew it would be cool, but playing on it every day for lunch has been better than I could have imagined. It’s a ton of fun and now everyone comes out to play. Lunch is now my favorite part of the day.”

Lighthall said adding the synthetic surface has turned out to be a win on every level – for the sports teams and players, for the students who enjoy it at lunchtime and for the image of the school itself.

“The kids are very proud of this addition and visitors to the school are ‘wowed’ by it,” he said. “And because HHS has some older buildings, having the turf in the middle of the school really draws everyone’s attention and makes everything else around it ‘pop.’ ”