On a recent Wednesday afternoon, the George Rogers Clark High School track was a bit more crowded than usual.
A group of local elementary school students were busy stretching, warming up and, eventually, running time trials to test their fitness.
Despite limited practice with an organized running club, the students ran lap after lap, testing their speed and endurance.
The students are part of a new running club, created to fight childhood obesity in Clark County. Coached by Dodd Dixon and sponsored by Community Education, the students will be transported to the track or a walking trail like The Path three days a week to play games, learn about fitness and run.
The program is open to students in fourth through eighth grades from Trapp, Pilot View, Fannie Bush, Shearer and Central elementary schools and Conkwright Middle School.
“The goal is to get kids more active,” Dixon said.
Dixon is a recreational runner and coach of both track and cross country at GRC, Community Education Director Cora Heffner said. She thought Dixon would be the ideal person to organize the club.
Dixon hopes to get the high school runners involved in the program, and the younger runners may be invited to participate in the annual Coaches’ Classic cross country meet at Lykins Park in October.
Community Education applied for a $2,500 grant from ING Run for Something Better and the National Association for Sport and Physical Education to help fund the program. Grant criteria requires students’ fitness level to be tested at the beginning of the program and at the end to see if progress has been made. If Clark County receives the grant, the program will continue for eight weeks, and include a culminating running event for the students.
Even if the program does not receive grant funding, Heffner and Dixon said they plan to continue meeting with students, but they may have to shorten the duration.
Grant winners will be announced later this month.
“We’ll be able to provide T-shirts and a couple competitions they might not be able to do otherwise,” Heffner said.
At practice, there is time for fun and games, but students also learn what it is like to be part of a running team. Even the youngest participants are expected to complete warm-up drills and focus on improving cardiovascular strength.
“As the season progresses, their will be some who are more competitive than others, and we’ll add in more running,” Dixon said.
Participants also are expected to maintain good grades, and middle school students are required to have at least a 2.0 GPA. There will be study hall sessions every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at Central Elementary before practice begins to help students attain their academic goals, as well.
Dixon said students have been “overwhelmingly enthusiastic” about running.
“We’re hoping it will increase their grades, increase their fitness and give them a connection to something larger,” Dixon said.
Contact Rachel Parsons Gilliam at firstname.lastname@example.org.