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Girls rule!

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Girls on the Run draws a crowd to its Sweet Briar celebration

By Mike Forster

 

It was all you might expect it to be.

There was no winner.  Times were not kept.  All the entrants wore the same bib number.  There was no team champion.

And they had a ball.

The Girls on the Run Celebration 5K took place at Sweet Briar College this past Saturday.  A total of 495 young ladies, assisted by 125 coaches and cheered on by hundreds of family and friends, successfully navigated the course at the Amherst County school.

Of that total, over 100 runners came from Bedford County schools:  New London Academy, Thomas Jefferson Elementary, Forest Elementary and Forest Middle.

"The girls love it," said TJ's coach, Stacy Poindexter of the program.  "We do a lot of work on self-esteem and social skills.  Some enjoy the running more; some enjoy the lessons more."

GOTR's mission statement declares, "Girls on the Run is a transformational physical activity based positive youth development program for girls in 3rd-8th grade."

Well, the program transformed Sweet Briar's campus from a staid, peaceful setting into one rocking with raucous young ladies, joined with their classmates in the camaraderie of chants and songs prior to the run's commencement.

Forest Elementary student Leah Beckham found much to enjoy.  "We run as a group," she declared.  "I get to make new friends and take classes on bullying [prevention] and how to be a better person." 

Added her coach, Faith Towles, "I think the excitement the girls have [for the program] spreads throughout the school."

She noted that the enthusiasm is also found at the adult level.  "It started with my daughter in the program and found it was a great thing to do together, said Towles  

"It keeps me running and encourages other girls to take care of their bodies and do the positive things."

Dawn Porter was at the race to see her daughter, Shayla, participate as part of the Forest Middle team.  "We love it," said Mom.  "It helps the girls build good friendships and the educational lessons help the girls with different life situations.

"They're active and they have fun.  They don't realize how much they can do until they get into the program."

One thing everyone came away from Saturday's even with was a realization that they can certainly do something:  successfully navigate a 3.1 mile course.  Of the 495 girls who started the race, each and every one of them finished.

All the racers started with a bright orange GOTR tee-shirt.  Each ended her race day be receiving a medal.

Kristi Henschel, the mother of a TJ Elementary third grader, was near the finish line to watch Emily wrap up her dash.  "She wanted to run.  That's why we started [her in GOTR]," said Kristi.  "Everything else has been more than we could have hoped for:  She has developed a sensed of self-confidence and is speaking out against bullying.

"[The girls] identify positive things about themselves and they make it so much fun."

Another who finished in fine fashion was Maya Herndon, a fifth grader at Linkhorne Elementary.  "It feels good because I've really been practicing and trying to be a good runner," she said.  "I liked [the race] because I had people cheering me on.'

One of those cheering on Herndon was Monica Gomez, a member of the E.C. Glass cross country team.  Gomez was joined by nine other Hilltoppers.  "All of us love running anyway," noted Gomez.  "And we know that helping them and being positive role models helps influence them, not only in running but in growing up."

Erin Saunders, who had led JF to a State cross country title just a week ago, was playing the same role, along with four of her teammates and Head Coach Jerome Loy, who was the meet announcer.

"It's a really nice program," said Saunders.  "It's good to start running early and start a healthy life style."