On a cold day on the first of December, the halls of Seymour High School are filled with the squeaking of running sneakers and the chatter of children.
Kids, 7 to 14-years-old, are running laps in the hallways and up and down the stairs in their future alma mater.
Sitting in the commons area, South Central Indiana Running Club coaches Brad Cobb and Jennifer Hildreth face a couple of elementary school girls who walk up to the table exasperated.
With red faces and sweat perspiring down their faces, one of the girls asks, with a huge grin, “Can we run stairs again?”
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The running club, which is not affiliated with the school district, will be sending 14 runners (including one team of seven girls ages 13 and 14) to the USA Track and Field National Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships on
Dec. 13 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
More than 3,000 youth athletes will run in the national races.
“You go from dual meets where there are only a couple teams, to state meets where there are 300 runners, to this where there are around
400 runners,” Hildreth said. “Number-wise, when they line up at the start line, it’s phenomenal. The ground shakes when they start running.”
While the team mostly consists of middle school and elementary aged runners, there are also three girls who ran for the Owls varsity cross-country team this past fall, freshmen Emma Brock, Abby Voss and Oriana Morales.
Those three girls placed in the top-five for the Owls during their trip to the state meet.
“There is no doubt in my mind that our freshmen girls’ success this year partially came from the experience of running in (nationals),” Cobb said. “They’re not intimidated easily. If they can run with 400 people, 200 is a piece of cake.”
The three runners will compete as a team with fellow 14-year-olds Ashton Chase and Brett Kleber and 13-year-olds Jalen Snider and Courtney Mansfield.
Last year, the same 14-year-olds finished 20th in the nation in the 4K race at the national race in San Antonio, Texas.
In the club’s second-year, they have expanded from
10 to 22 runners. A total of 10 girls and 12 boys have competed in races since the beginning of October across the state and in Illinois.
During the middle school cross-country season, the team had an athletics-
program highest 70 kids.
This year, seven-year-old Luke Hildreth will run in the 8-and-under 2K national race.
“I like that (running) makes you stronger,” Hildreth said. “(I’m excited), I’ve never been to a single beach!”
Eight-years-old Ava Sunbury will run in the girls portion of the 8-and-under 2K.
For the nine to 10-year-old boys 3K run, Eli Brock will run for the club.
“There are a lot of people in races,” Brock said. “Usually, if they try to go a little bit faster I stay right in front of them. I sprint too, sometimes.”
The 11 to 12-years old 3K will feature 11-year-old Brandon “Spanky” Kleber and 12-year-old Ethan Dippold who will make their first national appearance.
“Races are fun and hard,” Kleber said. “You have to run fast and run stairs (to prepare). It’s fun to go because you get to spend time with your family.”
Makenna Sunbury and Alyssa Perry, both 12-years-old, will run in the girls 11 to 12 3K event.
“I’m looking forward to the experience and staying the night at a hotel with the team,” Sunbury said. “We’re expecting big crowds of people. We are practicing really hard and doing lots of workouts.”
The running club started last year due to the middle school season’s short length. The coaches said the kids and parents were asking for more races, so they started right after the season.
“It was kind of a fun season,” Hildreth said. “Some of them bumped up in distance which means their training was bumped up as well. They were training for a 3K in middle school, now they’re suddenly running in the 4K. While it may be only a little under a half mile longer, it changes your training.”
But the running doesn’t stop after the club — it’s year round. The kids then take January off before preparing for track season. After track, the cross-country preseason starts right
Both Hildreth and Cobb hope the club will continue to expand next winter.
“We make them take January off, but that means they will just run on their own — that’s just how they are, they don’t quit,” Hildreth said. “Then we start looking, and training, for track. It’s not set what event they will run, so they need to work.”
No matter the result, Morales perhaps said the truest thing about the national race when she said, “we are a family.”
The SCIR plans to continue the club in 2015. They are also looking to expand to the surrounding area. The coaches made it clear this club is not exclusive to Seymour runners. Runners ages 7 to 14 may join the club after fees.
Girls coach: Jennifer Hildreth, HildrethJ@scsc.k12.in.us
Boys Coach: Brad Cobb, CobbB@scsc.k12.in.us
Times that qualified for national that were held in Romeoville, Illinois, on Nov. 22. The top-30 individual runners who didn’t qualify as a team also made the cut.
Boys 8U 2K: Luke Hildreth (5th, 8:36)
Girls 8U 2K: Ava Sunbury (4th, 9:12)
Boys 9 to 10 3K: Eli Brock (25th, 12:56)
Girls 11 to 12 3K: Makenna Sunbury (13th, 11:40) and Alyssa Perry (28th, 12:01)
Boys 11 to 12 3K: Brandon “Spanky” Kleber (9th 11:00) and Ethan Dippold (22nd, 11:27)
Girls 13 to 14 4K: Emma Brock (5th, 14:50), Ashton Chase (11th, 15:12), Oriana Morales (17th, 15:28), Abby Voss (23rd, 15:31), Brett Kleber (24th, 15:46), Jalen Snider (44th, 16: 43), Courtney Mansfield (46th, 16:47)