Running Rocketeers

Wednesday, April 19, 2017
The Running Rocketeers from Chapel Hill Elementary School set off on a training run during one of their after school sessions. The running club is training for their first 5K race to be held at the school on Saturday.
Tribune Photo by Scott Pearson

What do you give a kid who enjoys running? Their own race.

The young runners at Chapel Hill Elementary School will get a chance to show off on their home course this year in the first Running Rocketeer 5K this Saturday.

Jennifer Gaskill, a first grade teacher at CHES, started the Running Rocketeers with second-graders at the school last year as a way to get the kids more active.

This year the club expanded to include third graders as well and the club added their very own event.

“I just wanted to tie it all in together by having a race here,” Gaskill said.

Gaskill, an avid runner herself, started the program, wanting to offer an outdoor, physical activity for kids who might not have another option.

The benefits of physical activity for children are well studied, as is the fact that, currently, most American children don’t get enough of it.

Most of last year’s 22 second-graders returned to run again in third grade, and newcomers and this year’s second graders have swelled the club’s membership to 46 kids.

A lot of the kids balance the running club around practices or games in other sports, but for many of them, this was their athletic outlet, said Gaskill.

The running club meets three days a week, playing games that involve a lot of running as well as doing laps around the CHES campus.

They also have optional fun runs on Saturdays at Henry Horton State Park that lots of parents participate in as well, said Gaskill.

The group has been building up their distances week by week to prepare for the 5K.

Gaskill also said that this year she had been able to work more with the kids on concepts like the varying pace needed in a race versus training.

Over half of the group will be running on Saturday. For most it will be their first experience running a 5K.

Most of the kids expressed a combination of nervousness and excitement at the idea.

“This is my first 5K,: said second-grader Sienna Borba. “Pretty much I want a ribbon.”

Owen McClaran, who ran last year, too, in second grade, wasn’t concerned about the prospect of a 5K.

“I’ve done a few,” he said.

The 5K run, or walk depending on the entrant, will start at 8 a.m. on Saturday and will be held at CHES. Gaskill has been very pleased with the response for the inaugural race. She had received 96 entries already 10 days before the event.

Race day registrations are $30 for adults and $20 for children under 18. Running Rocketeers enter free of charge.

Proceeds from the event will go toward the running club, including paying entry fees for other races the kids might want to enter.