Over 500 girls participate in Girls on the Run 5K

Published 12:05 am Sunday, December 11, 2016

By Shavonne Walker

SALISBURY — Ten-year-old Aubrey Byrd admits when she’s feeling low it’s her Girls on the Run teammates who encourage and motivate her to continue. The girls cheered each other on Saturday as they completed a 5K non-competitive race in and around Catawba College.

Aubrey was her team’s cheerleader and even created a chant to motivate them all as they ran.

The chant — “Go. Go. Girls on the Run. Don’t stop. Just keep moving,” was what the girls sang loud and proud as they ran alongside other third through fifth graders in the blistering cold.

The girls, who numbered 498 in addition to their running buddies, many of whom were fathers and mothers or older siblings, ran just over 3 miles entering and exiting Shuford Stadium.

Girls on the Run is a celebration of and for the hundreds of girls who completed a 10-week session of the after-school program. The program is designed to help the girls recognize their inner strength, a lesson Aubrey and teammates have clearly learned and put into practice.

Throughout the season, the girls make new friends, build their confidence, and learn the importance of teamwork. The running portion of the program is to inspire an appreciation of fitness and to build healthy habits. The girls run two times a week.

The Faith Elementary School girls’ strategy and that of all the girls was not necessarily to win, but to have fun and just keep moving at their own pace, Aubrey explained.

Parent and buddy runner, Sarah Causey said she’s not into running, but “I like being able to participate with her, we decorate together. I like seeing her success and I love what she gets out of it,” she said of daughter Aubrey.

Coaches Jennifer Hobbs and Ashley Mahaffey ran alongside and cheered on their girls from Cornerstone Christian Academy in Statesville.

Hobbs said the program teaches the girls that “they can do whatever they set their minds to” and that “you have to start somewhere and you have to keep going.”

Mahaffey said seeing and working with the girls in the program is a motivator and encouragement for her too.

Parent and buddy runner, Dennis Baker of Mooresville not only participated with daughter Annslie, 8, on Saturday, but has in the past run with his older daughter.

“I love it. It’s always a good time,” he said.

“It’s something that focuses on empowering them,” Baker said of the program.

Although Robert Henderson did not run with his daughter, Chania, after working 12 hours he came out to support her as she ran her first 5K.

“It feels good to cheer her on,” he said.

“Girls on the Run encourages girls to try their hardest,” the 10-year-old said.

The program is something positive for his daughter to participate in, said the Salisbury resident.

Saturday’s event was the largest this council has seen. The Greater Piedmont council is made up of students from Rowan and Iredell counties.

There were also girls who participated in the newest Girls on the Run program, Heart & Sole. It’s a middle school curriculum that looks to teach girls life skills like team building, decision making, boundary setting and asking for help and providing help.

“Given the cold weather we couldn’t be prouder of these girls,” said Council chairwoman Jackie Hartzell.

She said the girls worked hard to learn how to be good teammates, be good future women leaders and support one another.

“Also how can they reach their limitless potential,” Hartzell said.

She said essentially the programs are solely about running. In fact, she said during their two-day a week practices if the girls don’t run, but jump around or do cartwheels, it’s OK.

“As long as they are moving forward. Being healthy and active — that’s all we care about,” Hartzell said.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.