CH-UH students learn the joy of running

Members of Canterbury Elementary School's Run Like A Tiger club at Roxboro Elementary School's Run Like It's Recess.

photo by Gabe Schaffer

Elementary students in the CH-UH school district are—like most children their age—full of energy. Parents and staff members have put that energy to good use by engaging the district’s children in a variety of running clubs.

From Girls on the Run (GOTR) programs at Boulevard, Fairfax and Oxford elementary schools, to run clubs at Canterbury and Roxboro elementary schools, and a lunchtime running group at Noble Elementary School, students learn one of the most challenging lessons of both sports and  life: sticking with something when it's hard.

“This was not just about running,” said school counselor Melinda Stoicoiu. “It’s about relationships.” At Fairfax's 75-minute GOTR sessions, participants discussed issues such as bullying, gossip, leadership, friendship and self-confidence, as well as how to set and reach personal goals and overcome challenges. They also cleaned up trash and planted flowers on the school grounds.

The highlight of the spring session was a 5K run held at Infocision Stadium in Akron in May. Members of the team gathered at Fairfax early one Saturday morning, rode to Akron by bus, and participated in the race together.

Sixth-grader Harper Walker has participated in GOTR for the past two years. She said it was fun, but tiring: “Our motto was, ‘No girl left behind,’ so we all finished the race together.”

Boulevard Elementary School's GOTR met in the fall. “We want the girls to benefit from their newfound confidence and from the relationships they’ve formed with each other and with staff” for the entire year, said Sherri Bellini, fourth-grade teacher. With 10 adults participating, the school plans to have two complete teams next year, one for fourth-graders and another for fifth-graders.

Last November, the Boulevard group participated in a 5K run in Mayfield Heights, sharing a bus with the team from Oxford Elementary School.

Oxford PTA hosted a Color-A-Thon race in May in conjunction with the school’s carnival, part of a weekend’s worth of activities coordinated by Noble Neighbors.

Also in May, Roxboro Elementary School hosted its fifth annual Run Like Its Recess. The Saturday morning event featured a 4-mile race, a 2-mile race and a Kids’ Fun Run on the middle school track. This year’s race attracted 300 runners, triple the number that participated in the race's first year.

Race organizer and PTA member Roxanne Bain is proud of “the steady increase in both participation and money raised. I’m glad this event is becoming a community tradition.”

Roxboro Elemenetary School hosts its own run club, organized by Bain and parents Kelly Nolan and Mary Sasmaz. More than 30 third- through fifth-graders met on Wednesday afternoons for seven weeks last spring to run, complete obstacle courses, play games and get dirty on the trails along Doan Brook.

According to Bain, “We talked about running technique, breathing, and posture, but mostly we just want the kids to think running is fun.” That seems to have worked: a great many children participated in the 2-mile option, including kindergartners and even their preschool siblings. Runners as young as 8 and 10 completed the 4-mile race.

Canterbury second-grader Adelina Szpak, who received a medal as the first 8 year old to finish the 2-mile race at Roxboro, summed up the value of all these running groups: “It teaches self-confidence, it’s fun to run with your friends, and it also gets you in shape!”

Krissy Dietrich Gallagher

Krissy Dietrich Gallagher, a longtime resident of Cleveland Heights, is a former district teacher and a freelance journalist under contract with the CH-UH City School District. A longer version of this article appeared at

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Volume 10, Issue 7, Posted 4:44 PM, 06.30.2017