Kindergartners and first grade girls leave the starting line for a half mile race on a course set up at Secor Metropark. They competed despite last week's rain.
Rain fell, stopped, and started again last week at the Sylvania schools' Elementary Cross Country Series, but it didn't deter the young competitors.
Hundreds of elementary school students showed up with parents at Secor Metropark for the event. The course was tailored to age groups, with kindergartners through third graders running a half mile and fourth through sixth graders doing a mile.
Music was played with the help of a generator, and tents were set up. Plenty of umbrellas were in evidence. The races were held on time, rain or shine.
Mary Mains, a fifth grader at Maplewood Elementary, seemed exuberant at the weather conditions. "I like the rain," she insisted. "I can fall down and get mud on me, but that's OK."
Mary is in the running club at Maplewood Elementary. She said that on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays she arrives at the school at 8 a.m. and runs with other members of the club until 8:55, when she has breakfast at the school. Most days they run outside, she said, but they can use the gym when the weather is bad.
Mary credited the running club, which can also be found at Central, Highland, and Hill View elementaries, with increasing her interest in fitness and exercise.
David Briggs, who teaches phys ed and coaches track and cross country at Northview High School, said the elementary cross country series, in its third year, is a big draw. He said 320 children had registered for the races. "We're getting more and more kids interested in running," he said just before picking up a microphone and intoning, "Kindergarten and first grade girls, head to the line. We are ready for you to go."
Drew Barnesky, 6, a kindergartner at Highland Elementary School, chugs toward his first-place finish on the half-mile course. His school's running club meets every Tuesday and Thursday.
A large contingent from Highland Elementary entered the races last week, not least because the running club has spurred interest, said Jennifer Briggs, a Highland third grade teacher who is Mr. Briggs' wife.
"We have almost 200 kids signed up for the running club, which is awesome," she said. "We do it two mornings a week, on Tuesday and Thursday. It's a great way for the kids to get some exercise."
Mackenzie Morgan, a Highland second grader, said she runs almost two miles during her morning jaunts with the running club and figured she'd have no trouble finishing the half-mile race.
"It's pretty fun, and you get a lot of exercise," she said.
For Alex Matuszynski, a Highland fourth grader, the one-mile run at the race was a cinch. He also belonged to the school's running club and said he benefited from it. "I feel better when I exercise."
Janice Buehrer, whose son Adam is a third grader at Highland, said she liked that he was in the running club and cross country series. "Running keeps him active. The club is a great way to keep him fit," she said.
Todd Kauffman was at the races to watch his daughter Mackenzie, a fourth grader at Highland. "I think this is a very well-organized run. The kids look forward to doing it every year," he said.