Track a gathering place for students, community

It’s Saturday evening and the Serrano family is running down the field, exchanging a soccer ball from one player to another.

The family cheers and claps as Ruth Serrano, a seventh-grader at 32nd School/USC MaST K-8 School, kicks the ball with force. The goalie dives, arms spread out, but misses the ball.

Kicking it · Emanuel Serrano (left) and daughter Ruth chase after the ball as Fernando prepares to kick it down the field. The Serranos regularly visit Cromwell Field to play soccer. - Nathaniel Gonzalez | Daily Trojan

Ruth’s older brother, Fernando, gives her a double high-five. It’s now her turn to play goalie.

The Serrano family hails from the Pico-Union area but visits USC regularly to play soccer and spend time together under the lights of Cromwell Field. The field, they say, is a great asset to the community even though it is part of USC’s campus.

“It helps out a lot of the community because there are no actual parks around here where the community can actually go and have activity time without having any problems,” Fernando said.

The Serranos aren’t the only local residents who come to USC to use the track.

The track and field has its seasonal uses, offering practice space for the Trojan Marching Band in the fall and various club sports practices throughout the year. But there are also those who come out daily dressed in sweatsuits from head to toe to power walk and run. And then there are those who work on their soccer headbutts or spiral football throw. There are the sports teams, like the USC men’s lacrosse team and the L.A. United Track Club, a youth club that uses the space to practice. There’s even the small child who uses the sandpit as his personal sandbox.

Fernando said the space is well known around the local community; many of his friends utilize the space to play soccer on a weekly basis.

Ruth, an active football, basketball and soccer player, said her middle school also comes to the track once every other week to do a 30-minute run and occasionally a timed mile run.

The youngest of the Serranos, third-grader Daniel, said soccer is his favorite sport. Daniel runs alongside his father, receives, guards and kicks the ball. He said he learns more about the sport from his family every time the Serranos come out to play.

The track gives families like the Serranos the chance to connect with each other, but it can also give students a chance to connect with members of the local community.

Kevin Chou, a junior majoring in music who goes to the track at least three times a week, said he sometimes takes advantage of the different activities happening around him on the track.

“I talk to some of the people and if I see some people throwing the ball I ask them, ‘Hey are you guys going to start a game?’ Sometimes they say yes,” Chou said.

Chou said local community members have also asked him to start up a football game.

He noted, however, that it rarely happens that both groups actually come together and interact.

“It’s almost like we’re doing our own thing,” he said.

But Robert Medina, the enrollment and scholarship officer for USC Army ROTC who regularly comes out to the track and also has an office in the Physical Education Building that overlooks the bright green Astroturf and eight lanes of rubber, mentioned that the space is very unique within the local area.

“I quickly noticed that Cromwell Field was a very dynamic gathering place at night,” he wrote in an e-mail. “It’s a great service to the L.A. community.”

Those who use it are under careful watch of a Department of Public Safety Community Service officer.

The officer serves the Cromwell Field from 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, according to DPS Capt. David Carlisle.

Despite the amount of activity, Carlisle said there are rarely any issues.

“If the lacrosse team has an official practice and another group wants to play soccer on the field at the same time, the [community service officer] has access to who is entitled to use the field at that time,” he wrote in an e-mail. “Generally speaking though, there are few problems at the Cromwell Field.”

Fernando also emphasized the safety of the area and said it’s a nice place for his younger brother and sister to stay active.

“It’s a safe environment, and you can actually have some fun,” he said.