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Four dozen middle school kids are ready now for the big event: Gasparilla Distance Classic.
By GAIL DIEDERICH, Times Correspondent
Published February 8, 2008
[Photo by Gail Diederich]
"Here are the sneakers!" shouted a student from high in the bleachers. A cheer erupted and 46 middle school student heads turned in the direction of an approaching white van.
Applause greeted van driver Maureen Chiodini and excited chatter spread through the Academy of the Farm students Wednesday.
For these kids, good behavior, outstanding attitudes and a lot of running paid off great with new Nike running shoes, new socks, new shirts, tote bags and lots of other goodies.
That's on top of a chance to run Sunday in their own special race at the Gasparilla Distance Classic in Tampa.
The free shoes and other incentives went to students taking part in the Let Me Play Kids Running Program presented by the Gonzmart Family Foundation, the Mendez Foundation, Kellogg's, Publix Super Markets, Nike and the YMCA.
Academy at the Farm students are the only Pasco students participating in the event this year, though several students from Hillsborough County schools will take part.
Chiodini, the health initiatives director for the Tampa Metro YMCA, arrived at the school on Handcart Road in Dade City, her van stuffed with bright orange boxes, each holding a pair of running shoes for students who had been selected by the Academy's physical education teacher, Robyn Crist.
Before Chiodini's arrival, more than 250 students, most of the school's population, filled the bleachers to celebrate the student runners and cheer them on. With the students lined up behind her, Crist explained how the students were chosen.
Each runner introduced themselves and then the pack of 46 took off for two laps, demonstrating running forms they have practiced.
Through the fall, Crist said she noted good attitudes in physical education and a willingness to work hard. By December, she had selected 50 students. From then on, the training intensified, allowing students the time to develop their running style and be ready for the big race day. Two students dropped out of the program and another two were absent for the shoe presentation.
Chiodini coordinates activities between the YMCA and local schools. She presents the program early on to students when a 12-minute walk/run pretest is given.
After the training is complete and the race is over, the same test is repeated. Students and their teacher see the improvement.
In addition to the shoes and shirts, students also receive pedometers and charts to mark their progress along the way.
"This program tries to get kids started on something they can do for the rest of their lives," Chiodini said.
At the student assembly, Michael Rom, director of the academy, drew attention to Crist, who has been the leader of the running group.
"Very little is accomplished without leadership," he said. "Without a leader, you just have a group of people. With a leader, the people become a purposeful group."
Rom recognized Crist and seven other staff members who will participate alongside the students.
On race day, the middle school students will serve as volunteers, handing out water and Gatorade to marathoners as they wind their way through downtown Tampa.
About 11 a.m. Sunday, students will take off on their own 2-mile run, in their own lanes and with their finish lines.
Students are awarded certificates and medals, and, of course, they get to keep the shoes.
When Chiodini delivers the shoes, she makes sure they all are the right size. If they aren't the correct fit, she goes back for more shoes.
"I'm beginning to feel like a shoe salesman," Chiodini said with a laugh, pressing a thumb between big toe and shoe tip, checking for adequate room for a seventh-grade boy's growing feet.
Ready for the run:
Let Me Play Kids program
Students participating in the run are Shannon Christmas, Ashley Hill, Deysha Barbour, Sheyanne Neidert, Jamie McCance, Taylor Reese, Rachel Wade, Amanda Dee, Lexi Gauttier, Hannah Borgemenke, Amber Hill, Allie Newlon, Cassie Nathe, Katarina Hastreiter, Ashley Wimberley, Brandi Hines, Bridgette Collige, Hannah Cook, Karisten Deem, Elizabeth Helms, Sophie Ippolito, Lauren King, Taylor Nutt, Imani Roberts, Vanessa Mills, Roshni Patel, Ashtynn Schildt, Emily Antonini, Jason Hicks, Austin Ladd, A.J. Rainaldi, Jacob Schildt, Robert Tanner, Chris Thompson, Ryan Jenkins, Morgan Flournory, Zach Knoll, Jarod Williams, Justin Hobby, Daryl Cruz, Frank Brudi, Dustin Hagelin, Chris Sumner, Carson Tanner, Tyler Esoff, Blake Roberts, Devon Johnson and Jacob Carroll.
[Last modified February 7, 2008, 22:05:27]