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Running is elementary

759 kids compete in cross country meet while learning values of exercise

759 kids compete in cross country meet while learning values of exercise

October 05, 2008|By Bob Parasiliti

Timmy Hamilton and Jaret Lazich locked into one of those rites of childhood on Saturday.

There they were, on a nice sunny day in the middle of an open field with trimmed grass. They did what most kids do under those conditions.

They ran. They ran hard. They ran to win.

In the long run, Hamilton edged out Lazich by one-tenth of a second. The funny thing about it was, neither realized that while they were having fun, they were actually learning something.

"I was running so hard, I couldn't feel my legs at all," said Hamilton, a third-grader at Fountain Rock.

Hamilton and Lazich were two of 759 children to compete in the 27th annual Elementary School Cross Country Run, sponsored by the Washington County Board of Education, at the grounds across from Eastern Elementary School. It was a day of fun and competition that put a finishing touch on an important message.

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"We are trying to encourage fitness and daily exercise," said Rich Secrest, the director of the event. "It's hard because kids are active with football, soccer and other activities, but it's tough to show them that they need constant action. Running is something that is a life-long activity."

The day was the fitting end of the first phase of physical education classes for the 25 elementary schools that participated. There is a concerted effort to fight obesity and promote fitness in the Washington County school system and the run is aimed at making third-, fourth- and fifth-graders aware of the options.

Each school had its own team that trained with its physical education teachers to learn the importance of running for physical health while getting ready for this final event. The winner of each race received a trophy, while runners finishing second through 15th won medals and the rest of the top 30 were given ribbons for their efforts.

The only thing that mattered to the participants, though, was the chance to get out there and run. Some showed the early savvy of road racers. Others showed confidence in their abilities. A couple became two-time winners of elementary titles.

It was an all-out rush of running, with kids from different schools becoming friends while their families stood around the boundaries cheering them on.

The six races - divided among boys and girls at each grade level - varied in distances. The third-graders ran 1,000 meters, while the fourth-graders followed a 1,200-meter course and the fifth-graders traveled a full 1,600 meters.

The starts looked like something you might expect to see on the final day of school with kids collectively bolting from the school doors, or the start of recess when everyone heads for a favorite swing.

A couple of runners took a tumble as the mass exodus started, and a couple of shoes flew off as the runners jockeyed for position to get to the head of the pack. It was a good day for that, though, as only two out of 1,518 shoes lost feet.

As the races wore on and the competitors strung out, the leaders showed they knew a little more about what they were doing, other than putting one foot in front of the other.

· Maddie Gilliam of Pangborn set the tone for the afternoon by charging down the final straightaway to come from behind and win the third-grade girls race in 4:02.12, edging out Alexa Teches of Paramount by .09 seconds. Gilliam acted like she had done this before.

"I'm used to running," Gilliam said. "We live in a big neighborhood and I run with my mom four times around it. I was just surprised I made up so much ground."

· Not to be outdone, Hamilton outleaned Lazich of Clear Spring Elementary at the finish line to win the third-grade boys race in 4:07.

"I was ahead, but he caught me," Hamilton said. "We were tied and we were running as fast as we could."

Hamilton was at a loss to describe what kept him going at the end.

"His legs," said Keith Hamilton, Timmy's twin brother who finished third, said with a cheesy grin.

· The fourth-grade runs were the home for repeat winners.

Maddie Abeles of Paramount beat Rynaisha Jenkins of Bester School with her final stride for a 4:40 time and a victory by .01. She won the event as a third-grader and turned this outing into a family tradition

"My aunt is a gym teacher and my whole family runs," Abeles said. "I'm just trying to keep up with my family. I wanted to pass her earlier, but I just couldn't do it until the end."

n Jake Arnone of Williamsport added the fourth grade title to the one he won in third grade when he edged out Mizayah Norris of Salem Elementary in the final 10 yards for a time of 4:57 and a two-second victory.

Arnone was very honest about his effort. He was trying to do it all with flair.

"I felt like I could do it," Arnone said of winning consecutive titles. "I thought I had a chance, but wasn't sure until we came down the stretch. I was just trying to be dramatic."

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