Nearly 50 Geyser Road Elementary School students are learning about running and track in a new after-school program called Geyser On the Run.
The third- through fifth-graders got interested in running during a physical education unit on cross-country running last fall, said Dana Bush, a reading teacher at the school who organized the program.
She thought a dozen or so students might be interested in a weekly after-school program and was surprised when closer to four dozen signed up.
The students are broken up into groups who meet once a week after school and run relay races, shuttle races, and other low-key competitions in the school gym. When the weather improves, the students will use the school’s large outdoor play area for running.
On Monday, 14 third-graders started out running a warm-up half-mile around orange cones set up in the gym.
“Nice and easy, this is a warmup,” said Bush.
After the warm-up run, the young students went through
a whole series of stretching activities. They touched their toes and sat down on the floor and stretched their legs in different positions.
“Get your arms all loosened up,” Bush said. She asked the students why it’s important to stretch. A third-grader answered: “So you don’t pull a muscle.”
The children enjoyed the activity. They ran a relay race and were cheering on their teammates as they ran around the orange cones, touched the gym wall, and ran back around the cones.
She said the students never run more than one mile.
“It’s more about getting exposure to a sport,” Bush said. “It’s not like we go out and run a 5 K.”
She said there are organized youth programs in soccer, baseball and lacrosse. She thinks running should be right up with those team sports for elementary-aged students.
Bush knows about cross-country running and track. She graduated from the Shenendehowa Central School District in 1996 and was on the girls’ championship cross-country team. She was named last year to Shenendehowa’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
She won a scholarship to Providence College and ran cross-country and track for four years. She was named All Big East in cross-country, placed third in the 10,000-meter Big East track competition, and went to the NCAA cross-country championships all four of her college years.
She and her husband, Rick Bush, who ran on Shenendehowa’s national champion relay team in 1995, still enjoy recreational running and run in some area road races.
They are enjoying watching their son, Ryan, 8, who participated in the Junior Olympics, and their daughter, Emily, 6, who has participated in short “fun runs,” become interested in running.
“I like to run,” Gracie Holtby, 8, of Geyser Crest in Saratoga Springs said after doing well in Monday’s relay race.
“I like to see my friends,” she said about why she joined Geyser on the Run. “I like relay races.”
Jack Krotow, 9, also from Geyser Crest, said he likes to run “a lot.”
He said he joined so he could be with his best friend, Ryan, who also participated in Monday’s after-school running.
“I like the shuttle run the best,” Krotow said.
Maureen Dana, a spokeswoman for the Saratoga Springs City School District, said the purpose of the after-school program is to promote a healthy lifestyle and also to give the students exposure to the types of running they will be able to do when they are older.