MAHOMET — The Mahomet-Seymour High School track was hopping Tuesday with the local contingency of Girls on the Run participants eagerly going through their paces in preparation for the big event next week.
The fresh-faced third- through fifth-graders didn’t seem fazed by the cool wind or partly cloudy skies. They typically run at Lincoln Trail Elementary School, and this was their day to stretch their legs at the high school facility.
And, they are on a mission.
This year’s Girls on the Run big event for Champaign County is Sunday, Nov. 3, at the Stephens Family YMCA, 2501 Fields South Drive, Champaign, but the program is a widespread effort with far-reaching goals.
“Using a fun, research-based curriculum that creatively integrates running, we inspire every girl to reach her limitless potential, not just for the length of our program, but for life,” the Girls on the Run website states.
“It’s actually a program through the YMCA, and we brought it here a few years ago,” said Mahomet-Seymour third-grade teacher Kayli Elliott, a Girls on the Run coach.
The program in Mahomet has grown steadily.
“It’s our biggest year,” Elliott said, with about 60 participants. “It started four years ago, and we’ve been growing each year since then. We had about 30 the first year.
“We run a 5K (on Nov. 3). Each girl will run with a running buddy,” she added.
The 10-week program also involves a community impact project — the exact details still under wraps — and more than athletics for the girls.
“We talk a lot about building self-esteem, accepting our differences and one another’s differences, including others, being kind and honest — all of those kinds of things,” Elliott said. “We do a lot of activities and discussions with that.
“At this age, exposing them to all the different lessons and building their self-confidence is really important, and also the importance of being active starting at a young age,” she said. “A lot of the girls in cross-country and track at the junior high talk about how Girls on the Run made them want to do that.”
If what some of the girls say is any indication, Mahomet’s Girls on the Run is off on the right foot.
Katie Hunter, 9, a fourth-grader, who started with Girls on the Run last year, plans to continue with the program. She is looking forward to Nov. 3.
“Last year, it was kind of sad because it rained,” Hunter said. “I hope it will be nice this year.”
Fifth-grader Megan Smith, 11, is in her third year with Girls on the Run.
“My sister used to do it, and I ran sometimes with her. It was just so much fun running with her,” she said. “That definitely motivated me. It just feels really good after you run a lot, and you’re like, ‘I just ran that much! Whoa!’ It’s so much fun.”
Her mom, Kayla Smith, is a big fan of the program.
“I always say, it’s kind of like Girl Scouts mixed with athletics,” Kayla Smith said. “I think all that they teach is fantastic.”
Mahomet’s Girls on the Run has a total of six coaches: Kayli Elliott, third-grade teacher; Beth Musgrove, third-grade teacher; Kara Allison, third-grade teacher; Jen Schickedanz, third-grade support services; Stephanie Sims, library; and Kim Killion, Compass classroom.