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Marble Falls elementary students go the extra miles

marble falls elementary

Coach David Woods recognizes members of the Marble Falls Elementary School Mustang Milers who ran a double-marathon distance over the course of the school year. The students are Branden Rogers (front, left), Hailey Lockner, Mary Cormier, Nataleigh Munoz, Adrian Martinez (back, left), Kalee Farrington and Jenna Watson.

DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR

MARBLE FALLS — Adversity leads to two things: People either fold under it or bust through it. When several Colt Elementary School students saw they might not hit their goal of putting in a marathon distance this year because of wet weather in the spring, the kids made a choice.

“You know what they did?” asked Debby Johnson, a Colt Elementary physical education teacher. “They ran at home. These are some dedicated kids.”

Running, often considered a punishment in some circles, provides many local elementary students a chance to build their physical fitness as well as learn to stretch themselves beyond perceived limits.

Johnson has been espousing the virtues of physical fitness for years as a P.E. teacher, but she’s always tried to get her students to understand that exercise doesn’t stop when they step out of the gym. This year, she had one of her biggest groups earn the coveted Colt Marathoner medallion. For some, it was the second or third medal over the years. But for others, it was their first.

“It’s quite an accomplishment,” she said. “They don’t have to do this. I don’t make them put in the miles. It’s something they want to do.”

Across town, Marble Falls Elementary School P.E. teacher David Woods organizes the Mustang Milers. Like the Colt runners, these elementary students put in more time running than others.

marble falls elementary
Coach David Woods recognizes members of the Marble Falls Elementary School Mustang Milers who ran a double-marathon distance over the course of the school year. The students are Branden Rogers (front, left), Hailey Lockner, Mary Cormier, Nataleigh Munoz, Adrian Martinez (back, left), Kalee Farrington and Jenna Watson.

It’s a choice each makes as he or she aims toward a goal.

At Colt, the kids’ goal is 26.2 miles — a marathon distance — over the course of the year. But many exceed that number.

The Mustang Milers challenge themselves with a double-marathon distance.

“The kids learn a lot about themselves and working toward something,” Woods said. “It’s not easy. They put in more time running.”

Putting in the miles isn’t a requirement. The kids can choose if they want to aim for the marathon or double-marathon goal. On Fridays, when her students can pick an activity, Johnson’s marathoners head outside (weather permitting) and run around the track at the front of the school.

“Sure, it helps them establish a habit of running and exercising, but it also shows them how they can accomplish something over the course of time,” she said. “It’s not something they can do in a few seconds or minutes. They have to work at it.”

The initial goal of both coaches is to get the kids interested in a physical activity so they can pursue it the rest of their lives and stay healthy. Woods pointed out that, since he began the running club, he’s noticed the Fitness Gram scores (the state assessment on student physical fitness) have greatly improved.

Woods also sees the Mustang Milers as a place to identify those youth with an interest in running as a sport.

“It’s a place to identify the future Leonel Manzanos,” he said, referring to the Marble Falls High School graduate who went on to win an Olympic silver medal in the men’s 1,500-meter run. He knows that it’s rare for someone to develop into an Olympic runner, but Woods believes kids can learn to enjoy running and begin building the foundation for middle school and high school cross-country and track and field as well as other athletics.

Though school has wrapped up and summer break is here, Johnson said it doesn’t mean they’ll stop running.

“I’m encouraging them to run during the summer. That way, when they come back in the fall, they’ll have that base (of fitness) already,” she said. “Plus, it’s just a great activity to get them outside and staying active in the summer.”

daniel@thepicayune.com