by Barbara Bradley and Tom McGuire
After a one-year hiatus caused by COVID, HMRRC’s JUST RUN program triumphantly returned to New York’s Capital District, thanks to the devoted efforts of HMRRC’s volunteers. JUST RUN Capital Region Coordinator Ken Skinner “sprinted” to make it happen, aided by other Club members who obtained private foundation funding to offset the Club’s regular funding lost due to the COVID pandemic. This year’s statistics:
Elementary school students in grades 2-6 and their coaches from across the Capital District returned to Tawasentha Park in Guilderland to participate in HMRRC’s JUST RUN cross country meet on November 3, 2021.
One hundred ninety-one students ran the half-mile course by grade (boys and girls), while 159 ran the mile course (boys and girls). Schools and volunteers alike enthusiastically cheered and encouraged the runners. Students each received place/finisher ribbons, colorful JUST RUN tee shirts they raced in, and a Workforce Team Challenge bag of snacks and juice.
The cross country course itself was modified by Meet Coordinator Sandy Morley because of standing water on the original course. “It was an unusual course, but the kids could have cared less,” said Skinner. “The weather was perfect and we finished the races in just about two hours.”
HMRRC members volunteered as starters, announcers, course marshals and start line, at the finish line timing/chutes, ribbon distributors, photographers, parking/traffic control, snack bag stuffers and for volunteer check-in. They staffed parking/traffic control and water tables, and compiled results.
“This meet always seems like old home week, getting together with all of you,” Skinner added in thanking the volunteers.
JUST RUN is a national after-school physical fitness activity designed for elementary school students. Obesity is prevalent among 20.3% of 6 to 11-year-olds nationally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The program’s goal is to inspire students to incorporate exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle. Coached by teacher/mentors, it emphasizes pride of accomplishment for every student, promoting the sport of running for everyone, at no cost to schools. One or two training sessions per week are held each year in the spring and fall to prepare students for spring track meets and fall cross country meets.
Participating schools this year included: Altamont (Guilderland), Barkley (Amsterdam), Bell Top, Green Meadow and Sutherland (East Greenbush), Broadalbin-Perth, Niskayuna, Roessleville (South Colonie), St. Thomas (Delmar), and Schoharie. For extensive photos, click here.
Of the 10 schools participating on site in 2021, all except Niskayuna had participated in previous years. While the number of schools participating was down from between 23 and 26 in previous years, those schools participating were no less enthusiastic.
Three schools decided to drop out two weeks prior to the meet due to COVID. Meanwhile, Rensselaer Park (Lansingburgh/Troy) conducted its own JUST RUN cross country meet on school grounds with over 100 students participating. HMRRC loaned the school one of its timing clocks for the meet.
The cross country meet would not have been possible without grant funding from a private foundation, thanks in part to Pete Newkirk and Ann Hurley making the connection. This enabled HMRRC to bring back the program after its usual funding from race proceeds was not available due to COVID race cancellations in 2020-21. In contrast, the national program was discontinued due to the COVID pandemic.
In addition, special thanks go to the Guilderland Parks and Recreation Department for enabling HMRRC to use Tawasentha Park at no cost to the Club.
HMRRC looks forward to bringing back the JUST RUN track meet in the spring of 2022, when most schools that could not participate this fall expect to return, subject to COVID constraints, possibly increasing participation to approximately 30 schools, including some in inner city areas.
Overcoming the health risks and weariness of COVID for students, schools and volunteers alike, JUST RUN 2021 was a “run-away success!” concluded Skinner. “It’s one of the best things HMRRC does,” added former HMRRC President Ray Newkirk, a long-term volunteer and supporter.
by Anne M. Hurley
For the past several years, HMRRC has sponsored the Just Run program to introduce youngsters grades two through six to organized running. Like so many other activities, Just Run had been on hold since 2020. Despite the challenges of negotiating pandemic protocols, nervous parents, and concerns of school administrators, Just Run made a highly successful comeback in the Fall of 2021. Pete Newkirk and Ken Skinner worked to secure funding, making good on the Just Run pledge that participating would not cost the schools or the students. In September, the program guidelines were distributed to the 15 schools in the area that had signed up, and volunteer coaches trained and educated their young runners in the ways of running, sportsmanship and goal setting. All of this hard work culminated in the Just Run Cross Country Meet held on November 3, 2021.
Sandy Morley returned as race director, miraculously carving a challenging but safe one-mile course out of a rain soaked Tawasentha Park. Ken Skinner’s loyal Just Run volunteers were out in droves, ensuring that everything from parking to race results to team pictures went smoothly.
Participants lined up by sex and grade level for each of the ten races. Race official Chris Rush managed the start line, as he has since the program began. The only things louder than the horn at the start were the shouting and cheering from fellow students on the sidelines, encouraging the runners to do their best.
Pandemic precautions didn’t dampen the fun or the excitement of live cross country racing. Participants came away with a sense of what it is to run with a community, to encourage each other and to feel proud of their individual progress through the program. For the adult volunteers, coaches and parent spectators, it was a well-timed reminder that the running spirit is alive and well in the Capital District.
Stay tuned. Just Run returns with its Spring Track Program in a few short months.
Results of Just Run XC Event
2nd & 3rd Girls Half Mile
2nd & 3rd Boys Half Mile
4th Grade Girls Half Mile
4th Grade Boys Half Mile
5th Grade Girls Half Mile
5th Grade Boys Half Mile
6th Grade Girls Half Mile
6th Grade Boys Half Mile
Girls Mile All Grades
Boys Mile All Grades