By SHERRY VAN ARSDALL
THE GOSHEN NEWS
Nine-year-old Diana Cortez ran in the halls at West Goshen Elementary School Wednesday.
The fourth-grader wasn’t called to the principal’s office and she didn’t get in trouble.
Diana has participated in the Run the Halls club Wednesdays and Thursdays, a new running club for about 100 children in grades kindergarten through fifth-grade.
“It’s fun to run and not get yelled at,” Diana said. “I like to run a lot.”
Children have been staying after school for three weeks and have one more week to go before Christmas break, said Elisabeth Vukovich, the school nurse.
The perimeter of the hallway is .1 mile inside the school and the kids run for 10 minutes.
“I’m surprised we haven’t had any serious collisions,” she said, laughing. “And it’s been surprising how good the parents have been about picking up their kids after school.”
The club started after Vukovich was approached by Michelle LeCount, child obesity coordinator at IU Health Goshen Hospital.
“I’ve had the idea for running clubs for awhile but this is the first time,” LeCount said. “I’m looking at ways to support health in school and offer physical activity. The running clubs are geared for the colder months in winter. The kids love the idea of running in the halls and not get in trouble for it.”
Fourth-grader Zaniah Nolan had two reasons for joining the club.
“I like to run and I like staying after school because there’s nothing to do at home,” Zaniah said. “I run fast. I like to run with my friends but sometimes I leave my friends behind.”
The 10-year-old ran past the school nurse, smiling.
And having fun while exercising is part of the goal of the program, LeCount said.
“It’s important for their health and by being active, the kids do better in school,” LeCount said. “For the kids, the appeal is running in the halls.”
LeCount provides supplies and support for the seven area schools participating in the program along with West Goshen Elementary School. After the first of the year, there will be another seven local schools participating in the program, she added.
“We supply the prizes and ask the schools to be the coordinators,” she said. “It’s really exciting to hear their stories and how the kids are enjoying it. There are 40 to more than 200 participants in each school.”
Each child receives bright shoelaces and a chain at the beginning. When the club is held they receive a bright plastic shoe charm, and for each mile they accumulate, the students get a bright foot charm, LeCount said.
“The clubs are conducted in a way to be accepting of kids of all abilities,” LeCount said. “They compete against themselves and see how well they can perform each week.”
Vukovich had to chuckle at comments made by the kids running past her in the hallway, breathing heavily from their exertion and red in the face.
“I’m very sweaty.”
“My leg hurts.”
“I did it fast.”
After the 10 minutes were up, Diana had five Popsicle sticks in her hand, which meant she ran five laps and achieved more than two miles, so far, she said.
Zaniah held three sticks.
“I think I’ve ran a mile now but I’m not sure,” Zaniah said. “I got a later start so I’m working on a mile right now.”
Some of the kids walked down the school hallways at 3:15 p.m. to the front doors of the school, too tired to run while others were still full of energy, ready to run again.