By Mike Kinney
A dozen students from Richmond’s Nystrom Elementary School endured the heat and dust along the trails at Quarry Lakes Regional Recreational Area in Fremont on Saturday. But in the end, all 12 girls crossed the finish line of the Girls On The Run 5K race, marking a successful end to a 10-week after-school program that inspires girls throughout the U.S. and Canada to be joyful, healthy and confident.
Girls On The Run (GOTR) is an international organization with teams throughout the U.S. and Canada and was established in North Carolina in 1996. The running program is offered to girls from 3rd through 6th grades, ages 8-13.
This is the fourth year that Nystrom Elementary School in Richmond has featured a GOTR team. This year is particularly special. While a GOTR team is typically limited to 12 girls, due to overwhelming interest this year’s team was expanded to 19 girls, the most ever, according to Masa Peterson, who is coach of the Nystrom GOTR program alongside Bernadette Capo. Peterson and Capo are also first grade teachers at the school.
The teachers attribute the high demand for GOTR to the girls’ eagerness to be involved in activities after being cooped up during the pandemic.
The Nystrom students who raced over the weekend were among 500 girls making up 50 teams of runners at Quarry Lakes.
“It was just so exciting to hear the crowds cheering when our girls completed the run and received their medals,” Capo said.
Capo said the girls practiced twice a week for 10 weeks in 90-minute practice sessions.
“The girls get stronger through strength exercises, interval training and endurance training, running up to 1-3 miles at practice,” said Capo. “At the beginning of practice, the girls set goals for themselves and reflect on their goals at the end of practice. Our last session on Thursday, all of the team completed a practice 5k in preparation for the 5k race.”
More than completing the race, participants walk away from the program “having learned critical life skills, including managing emotions, resolving conflict, helping others or making intentional decisions that they continue to use at home, school or with their friends,” said Peterson.
It was the first year that Capo and Peterson became GOTR coaches.
“I participated in Girls on The Run when I was in elementary school and wanted to coach the team now as a teacher at Nystrom,” Capo said. “Masa and I are first grade co-workers and both have a passion for girls’ sports, so it was a no-brainer asking her to be my co-head coach. “
Peterson said she participated in soccer and rowing through college and was excited for the opportunity to take on a coaching role.
For more information on GOTR, visit here.