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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Ridgecrest Runners are marathoners

Aug 28, 2018 04:03PM ● By Jana Klopsch

Ridgecrest Runners, seen here in May, finished running a marathon over the course of the school year. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected] 

26.2 miles? No sweat for more than 130 elementary school children at Ridgecrest Elementary.

These students form the Ridgecrest Runners and over the course of the school year, complete a marathon running laps around their school field before school.

Last year, several of the runners had completed five marathons, as they started as first-graders, when the program began. 

“The kids like doing it,” said Marci Cardon, who organizes the runners. “We have a big group of volunteers who help. Some run with the students, others are making sure they sign in or stretch. It’s become something everyone counts on.” 

This fall, students can sign up to participate in the free activity, which not only has the students running laps, but also having fun doing relays, springs, playing tag, doing strength workouts, springs and yoga and stretching. They meet before school on Fridays for 45 minutes. The Ridgecrest Runners also have been known to take 30-second breaks for jumping jacks and push-ups. 

“As the kids come, they get better in shape and become faster. It helps with their strength and agility,” she said. “We teach them how to warm up, cool down, set a pace, what the difference is between sprints and distance, and talk about everything at the end of our workout. Some like it to compete and others do it with their friends as a team atmosphere. We want it to include anyone who wants to participate,” she said. 

Third-grader Jay Thompson is one of those who wants to use the endurance training to improve his speed.

“I’ve been wanting to get stronger and faster — as fast as my brothers,” said the student-athlete in May who also likes to play football, indoor soccer and does karate. “I’m looking forward to finishing the marathon and maybe running some 5Ks this summer.” 

Fifth-grader Vincent Riccardi finished his second marathon with Ridgecrest Runners.

“I run because I like it,” he said. “It’s actually pretty fun to run a lot and play the games afterward for more exercise. I may run cross country now at Midvale (Middle School).” 

Six years ago, Cardon said several students wanted more physical education, so she began a running club and about 30 students participated. They even ran in Cottonwood Height’s annual race around the Thanksgiving holiday. 

However, the next year, the group’s vision shifted and Ridgecrest Runners emerged, with the goal following an Iowa school — for any student to complete the marathon during the morning runs. That first year, 85 students joined. Since then, each year more than 125 students have participated. 

When the weather becomes inclement for running around the field, the Ridgecrest Runners take to the school hallways. 

“We have exercises and fun ways for them to keep moving so they continue to get exercise and build their endurance and stamina,” she said. 

In addition to leading a healthier lifestyle, the students can be selected as a “Star Runner,” where they receive a Gatorade. Those who complete the marathon are rewarded with a “finisher shirt,” snacks and a chance for raffle prizes — reflective vests, sunglasses, shoelaces, running lights, Frisbees and other active sporting equipment.

“Many of these students realize they can accomplish something hard and how they can break down a long-term goal so they can be successful,” Cardon said. “They’re learning to have fun with physical fitness while building friendships.”