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Girls on the Run takes over city streets

Elementary and middle school girls took to the streets of Salisbury in a big way on Saturday morning. The Iredell/Rowan Girls on the Run Council celebrated its fall season of training with a culminating 5K at Catawba College as it does each December. The GOTR 5K exceeded any of their past events with about 900 participants. Those running on Saturday included just over 400 elementary and middle school girls who were completing the program, a running buddy for each one and quite a few community runners.

With a total of 35 schools participating, 29 elementary and six middle schools, the program provided confidence building training this fall to 491 girls. The Iredell/Rowan Council started in 2008 with just 48 girls and now has grown to its largest ever.

Girls on the Run inspires girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experienced based curriculum which creatively integrates running. New this year was the “Heart and Sole” curriculum for the middle school girls, specifically more challenging than the basic 3rd, 4th and 5th grade GOTR program. Girls form “teams” and meet twice a week for 10 weeks.

Carie Hayworth, long-time GOTR coach at Faith Elementary, said, “These girls have worked so hard. They have confidence that they can finish the 5K. This day keeps us coming back for more. It’s is not about the tutus, headbands and jingle bells on our shoes today, it is about the girls completing this challenge and then cheering the others in. I’m a lifer in this program.”

Hayworth’s team agreed with her. Hannah Utley, fifth grader, said, “I know how much we have gone through to achieve this goal. And we are gonna have fun.” Aubrey Byrd, third grader, said, “I had completed one other GOTR 5K. It was the biggest thing that I had done and was very emotional.” Kaitlyn Drye, fourth grader, added, “The best part was the encouragement from my coaches and the other girls as we prepared to do this. Running will continue to be a part of life, maybe even a half-marathon or marathon.”

Running buddies like Claire Watts, herself a Southeast Middle School teacher and marathoner, said, “My job is to run with and encourage Jocelyn Cerrato, a seventh grader at Southeast Middle. I’m a little afraid that Jocelyn will outrun me.” Cerrato said, “I can’t wait to run. Coach Farmer did a great job with us.”

GOTR board member and event announcer Jennifer Summers was happy with the organization of the event, “We are getting better at planning as we get more seasoned. Key players have their responsibilities, getting more professional each year. I’m excited too that my daughter, Shelby, went through this program and is back here today as a running buddy. I can’t see myself not involved with GOTR ever. It grows every time. We have over 900 participants today.”

As the runners crossed the finish line amid plenty of cheers, Rowan County Commissioner and GOTR 5K volunteer Judy Klusman said, “I am with the Altrusa Club. I missed it when the club volunteered at an earlier GOTR event, so I came today to help. This is so awesome with such an electric energy here. Moms and dads running with their daughters, making me hope that more girls will run in the future.”

Watts and Cerrato crossed the finish line together, both smiling when Watts told her, “You ran very well. In a few years, I am going to be looking for you in the paper.” Cerrato said, “That was a hard hill to climb, but I was not going to stop especially after all the practice.”

There is a scholarship program for those girls/ families who cannot afford the program fee. Full or partial scholarships are offered based on each family’s needs. No girls have ever been turned away from GOTR due to financial need. About 30% of girls in the program get financial assistance and GOTR expects that number to grow as the program expands.

Girls on the Run Event Coordinator Amy Spear said, “Completing the 5K gives the girls a tangible understanding of the confidence that comes through accomplishment. As a volunteer driven organization with just two part-time employees, I am in awe of this 5K event. We have 125 volunteer coaches and about 100 race day volunteers, the Salisbury Rowan Runners, a race committee and our board of directors. We appreciate the continued support from the City of Salisbury and Catawba College. The success of the event is due to the volunteers and our generous sponsors. This was our largest 5K yet and I am very proud to be part of this team.”

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