Valley kids club hits its stride
By Marlene Farrell
PESHASTIN — Elementary schools typically quiet down soon after the last bell is rung and the buses pull away from the curb. At Peshastin-Dryden Elementary, that isn’t the case, however — at least on Tuesdays and Thursdays when 100 energetic kids who make up the Striders running club I help coach head to the track.
They toss backpacks in the grass like shaking off shackles. They run a lap before doing silly things like snapping their legs back to “butt kick,” or stretching their legs by walking around like zombies, or imitating the Rockettes, or perfecting the hip swing of a race walker. There is an underlying usefulness to these drills that has to do with strength and flexibility. There also is the fun factor — they smile and giggle as they leap across the grass.
At their age — 6- to 8-years old — they are willing to be goofy and they recognize their success at these little things, even if they aren’t the fastest one around the track. Because the other reason to do these drills — and relays that have no end, and games of tag where the “it” is always changing — is to make each runner feel competent and proud of his ability.
After warm-ups they do a long run or cycle through stations. A long run teaches commitment to a goal. Each runner sets a goal for herself by writing a number on her hand. Can she run five laps in 25 minutes? Perhaps seven laps? The runner receives a marker dot on her hand every time she completes a lap. She knows if she makes her goal, and she knows if she surpasses it. They run to pop tunes blasting out of the stadium, and through a gamut of volunteers holding misters or sponges.
On other days, the Striders stay with their gaggle of age mates. One station might have hurdles where they learn about lead leg and trail leg. At another station we do a relay. Like elite sprinters, they perform baton hand-offs in an exchange zone and try to remember who is on their relay team (the most challenging part for kindergarteners). The kids run fartleks sometimes — having their pace match that of an animal — like a turtle, a goat, a horse, or a cheetah. It’s up to them how fast they go so long as they keep moving.
Tag comes in every hue. Sponges make great tagging devices and the game lasts longer when the kids are dripping with water instead of sweat.
One practice was class picture day. There was no fuss or complaints and those girls ran fast with their dresses billowing out behind them. Sometimes they had to hike up their skirts for the plyometrics.
When I drop my daughter off at her classroom in the morning I am greeted by many smiles and waves and proud pronouncements of “P.D. Striders!” Their lively momentum buoys me to ride the tide of minutia (emails and paperwork) that goes with any large program.
I was worried at the beginning about having enough volunteers to track 100 kids from station to station and all the way to parent pick-up. But the volunteers — runners and non-runners alike — have given much of their time and have said yes to my many requests. School principal Staci Bain is our biggest cheerleader and also volunteers despite her long days and many other commitments. Alice Wood has ensured healthy snacks and extra water is always available to the runners. It’s a beautiful thing to have so many people come together for something that started as an intangible idea.
The Striders running club relies heavily on its generous sponsors. Dan Bishop, of Human Powered, has donated student-designed t-shirts every year. Dan’s Market has given us fruit by the bushel to fuel the hungry athletes. RunWenatchee has donated equipment and helped pay for t-shirts. And the school’s Parents in Education group has covered the cost of other necessities.
Everyone involved sees the value. Right now the kids are moving, whether fast or slow, with friends and by themselves, determined. They will have this identity as a P.D. Strider forever and it might just keep them moving and believing in themselves and encouraging each other for years to come.
Marlene Farrell, a Leavenworth resident and long-distance runner, helps coach the Peshastin-Dryden Striders kids running club. If you are interested in helping out the Striders in some fashion, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.