Fifty fifth grade students at Ortiz Intermediate School recently achieved a milestone that was 10 weeks in the making, one that was set to battle diabetes and obesity in children.
Coach Albert Pope said the students are involved in the school's Runners Club, which is now finishing its second year in existence. Last school year, the club started with 30 students, many of who did not complete the program at the end of its five-month span.
This year, 135 students entered the club, with 50 finishing the program's goal of having students run 20 miles by Tuesday's deadline. They began working on the benchmark in early January, Pope said.
"I felt very pleased with the situation. I feel like I got total commitment from the kids this year," he said. "This Runners Club has really taken off."
Pope said the program is designed to raise awareness in the kids about the potential health risks associated with diabetes and obesity.
The club encourages the students to be more active and exercise regularly, with members required to run a half-mile every day after school, Monday through Thursday. Students who are in tutoring or have a previous academic commitment are excused from that particular day's run, Pope said.
"We don't want to get in the way of their academics," he added.
Fifth grade student Marie Maloy-Perez said the club has shown her that exercise can be fun and rewarding at the same time.
"It just makes you feel good after you've finished, like you've really accomplished something," she said.
Fellow runner and fifth grader Jacob Gonzalez agreed with his classmate.
"I think it's awesome," he said.
"Sometimes we have a competition," Maloy-Perez added.
"She mostly wins," Gonzalez replied, referring to Maloy-Perez.
The 50 runners who completed the club's goal on Tuesday were treated to a field trip to West Guth Park, where they wrapped up their 20-mile benchmark with a one-mile run around the park. They were then presented with snacks and medals for their accomplishment. Pope said he plans to bring the club and program back next year.
"It's all about recognition for our babies," Pope said. "It's amazing how you can use running to have a positive influence on these kids."