Soos Creek runners: They’re logging the miles, keeping smiles

Array

Soos Creek Elementary sixth-graders from left to right: Mae Thungc

Soos Creek Elementary sixth-graders from left to right: Mae Thungc

The students call it “Killer Hill” and though it may not be all that steep or all that long, the path through the school’s back gate is enough to slow down even a high-energy elementary school kid, especially after already running more than a mile.

“I hate this hill!” a lone voice called, vocalizing the looks on the faces of just about every other student.

They may hate it, and it may slow them down, but even Killer Hill doesn’t stop the members of the Soos Creek Running Club, which has met twice each week (give or take during the snow and holidays) since the beginning of school.

Started by Soos Creek staff member Stacy Wahlberg, the running club began in January 2008 to get the kids ready for the upcoming track season. This year, the kids were asking about it as soon as school started.

“I must have had 10 kids ask me when we were going to start running,” Wahlberg said.

Though she was expecting about 20 students, the club opened with 60 kids, all ready to run.

“They wanted to run. I thought that was awesome,” she said.

Meeting after school in Mondays and Wednesdays, the running club all starts together, then spreads out over one of the courses designed by Wahlberg. This past week, the loop took the kids off of school grounds, through a neighborhood, up Killer Hill and then around a trail behind the school.

The total distance per loop was about a half-mile.

The kids run at their own pace, usually in small groups (though some run solo) and the goal is to get the youngsters running for as long as they can, up to the full 30 minutes during which the club meets.

On Wednesdays, student only run for 20 minutes and then play a high-energy game or scavenger hunt of some kind.

“Anything that keeps them running and having fun,” Wahlberg said.

On most days, Wahlberg runs with them, as well as other teachers, aids and parents. The runners start off each meeting by stretching and then hit the course, with most pushing themselves to run the whole time.

Some students are given stopwatches and yell out for the others how long they have all been running.

At the end, the kids write down on clipboards how long they were able to run. Most of the runners have shown marked improvement from the beginning of the year, with some only able to run about 90 seconds in September able to keep pace the entire time now.

The youngsters who run said they feel better about themselves and enjoy getting in shape.

“Its really fun,” said fourth-grader Samantha Dillon, 9. “It gets you more in shape then you were before.”

Marie Ford, 11, said the running was getting easier each week and helped her stay active for her other sports.

“It helps me train myself for track and basketball,” she said.

Warren Bacote-Wilson, 9, also is training for basketball and said he feels healthier, but those aren’t the only effects.

“I feel really, really proud of myself,” he said. “Like, ‘I did it.’”

“I think it’s great,” agreed Braiden Beckman, 11. “It gives you time not to just sit around and play video games.”

Principal Patty Drobney said the school has been trying to focus on lowering childhood obesity and the running club is another great way to get the kids up and moving

“We’re trying to get kids more active,” she said.

“They look at themselves as athletes, as runners, whereas they wouldn’t before,” Wahlberg said, adding that she thinks the focus helps them in the classroom too.

Drobney agreed.

“I think the more fit they are, the more focused they are in class,” she said.

But along with being fit, Drobney said, the club gives the students something to be proud of by charting their progress and getting into shape.

“There’s so many things about school that are hard for these guys,” she said. “There’s nothing really to win from running club, but they all come out winners.”


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