DOBSON — Rockford Elementary School has the only organized running club in the Surry County School System participating in local 5Ks. Because of the success of the program, there are plans to replicate it in other elementary schools in the district.
The running club, known as “GROW STRONG” since Jan. 8, stands for GO RUN OUR WORLD STRONG. Third- through fifth-grade students at Rockford are eligible to participate and are chosen through an application process. Their willingness and commitment become a large factor in being selected for the club. Staff members also are encouraged to participate.
The first running program began at Rockford in the fall of 2015 under the guidelines of the nationally known Go Far program. Twenty-five students trained and ran in the “Rosy Cheeks” 5K in December.
Fourth-grade student, Jackie Trejo, expressed her feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction she felt when she realized she could monitor her progress. “I started out pretty slow. I kept doing the weekly workouts. In week seven, I realized I could run the whole time,” she said. “I ran the Rosy Cheek 5K in 35 minutes and 2 seconds!”
Two fifth-grade boys agreed. “It takes perseverance,” said Reagan Reece. “It makes you stronger in your body and in your mind.” Reagan participated in both Go Far and Grow Strong. Edgar Reyes-Nazario agreed, “It is hard work, but it’s worth it.”
In the spring, after the program changed its name to “GROW STRONG,” community members sponsored six team members in the Cintas 5K in Dobson. Each student placed in his/her category.
For 10 weeks, the team meets each Tuesday and Thursday after school to train for an upcoming 5K run. During practices, students do timed run/walks, hill workouts, tempo runs, and relays in preparation for specific races. Students have learned workouts also include the application of character education lessons such as perseverance, responsibility, race etiquette, self-motivation, self-pride, and teamwork.
Besides weekly practices, the students complete a run of their choosing on the weekend. The hope is that students will get their own families involved and improve their individual timing. Running together as a family in the local 5Ks has become popular for many of the students.
Deanne Fitzgerald, the physical education teacher and coach of the GROW STRONG Rockford team, believes strongly that programs of this type are important because they teach students (and adults) how to improve mental and physical strength. “The program establishes and expands the love of running. It also creates positive healthy habits that will continue into adulthood. Most importantly, it teaches people of all ages how to be a part of a team,” commented Fitzgerald.
Tyler Fitzgerald, co-coach, and student at Surry Central High School, brings to the table his expertise and love of the sport. Students really look up to him.
Forty students from the GROW STRONG running club and 11 staff members will participate in the fourth annual MAD Dash & Fun Run on April 30 in Pilot Mountain. The MAD (Making A Difference) Dash 5K & Fun Run is a fundraiser to benefit the Surry County Schools Educational Foundation. The Educational Foundation helps all 19 schools in the Surry County School System by supporting enhanced learning opportunities to students in all grades. The race also promotes health and wellness among the students and staff members in the school system as well as the community.