LOS ANGELES — Nearly 700 middle school students from across Southern California participated in the 31st annual LA84 Foundation Run4Fun event held at Jesse Owens Stadium, on the Cal State University Los Angeles campus.
After a few days of rain, the sun came out for the event, providing youngsters with a scenic backdrop during their races.
Students in grades 6,7 and 8 represented their schools at the event, which was the culmination of two months of training. LA84 initiated the program to provide a sports/fitness opportunity while utilizing the physical education curricula, as well as after-school programs to introduce youth to running for fun, fitness and competition.
Nolan Ortiz, Program Officer with LA84, helped organize the event.
“Run4Fun is important in that it allows students to set personal goals, then empower themselves to achieve in a supportive, fun environment,” Ortiz said. “The smiles and the joy of the kids when they’re out running with their friends makes it difficult not to be inspired.”
To help the youngsters prepare, LA84 provides them with a recommended weekly training regimen of introductory running games; activities and drills; material for school site publicity and promotion; and transportation for schools to attend the Run4Fun festival.
The course distance was 2-kilometers (1.25 miles,) and races were separated by age and gender.
Glen Vanderlinden is a teacher a Madrid Middle School, who understands the importance of kids being active.
“It’s been scientifically proven that the more active students are, the better they can do in their regular academic classes, like math, science and language arts,” Vanderlinden said. “They stay more alert in class, they’ll be able to focus better, it just teaches them to set goals and accomplish those goals.”
Palms Middle School had the highest number of participants, with more than 200 children running.
Coach John Mullaney wanted to maximize the experience for his students.
“I try to bring as many as I can, so they get a taste of track,” Mullaney said. “A lot of them haven’t been involved with real track yet, they’re middle school kids, so we try to get as many kids as we can, keep them running for the preliminary period and give them a sense of what it’s like to be on a track team.”
With family and friends cheering them on, the students showed how the 10-week training program helped prepare them for their races.
Leading up to the Run4Fun event, students ran three timed competitions at the 3, 5 and 7 week intervals, gradually working their way up to the 2K finale.
Regardless of the results, Vanderlinden’s message to students was simple.
“I don’t care what place they come in, it’s a matter of finishing and giving their best effort.”
Mullaney believes that being exposed to events like Run4Fun could open up doors for many of the youngsters.
“Some kids are not involved in sports, so if you can at least expose them, sometimes they realize, ‘I’m pretty good at this,'” he said. “They didn’t know that they were pretty good at it, and they like it. Things like running, you can do it your whole life.”
8th grade boys winner: Allen S. (Haskell M.S.) 6:44
8th grade girls winner: Alexa C. (Haskell M.S.) 8:00
7th grade boys winner: Nicolas L. (Grenada M.S.) 6:56
7th grade girls winner: Gia M. (Palms M.S.) 7:56
6th grade boys winner: Steven A. (Marshall M.S.) 7:46
6th grade girls winner: Sierra F. (Grenada M.S.) 8:10
For complete results, click here.