Of the 710 students that are currently attending Virgin Valley Elementary School, nearly 95 percent of them have participated in the school’s running club that happens during the lunch hour on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
For 10 minutes of their lunch hour, students can run up to five laps on a coned-marked course for a total of a mile. However, club leader and organizer Brooke Whipple says a lot of the kids like it so much they don’t want to stop. “A few of them get so caught up in it, they don’t want to go back in when it’s time,” she said.
The club started at the beginning of the school year and has tracked the progress of the participants each week since. As of March 15, there were 26 students who had accumulated 20 miles or more.
At the top of that list is fifth-grader Owen Rappleye, who recently took the lead over second-grader Penny Andolin due to her missing a week. “She was ahead of him by two laps. But it’s still close and he’s only ahead of her by less than a mile,” said Whipple.
When asked why he joined the club, Rappleye said “My family does big races and I want to be able to do that, too. We all like to run.” His family owned Mesquite’s only athletic wear store, Jadde Sports, until it closed in 2014.
The top two finishers, one boy and one girl, will receive a special t-shirt at the end of the year and according to Whipple, XXXX Durbin, the school’s physical education teacher, wants to arrange something special for the top 30 students who finish.
While this may have started out as a way to get more students physically active and preparing for the annual triathlon in May, Whipple and others believe the benefits go far beyond that. Teachers have noticed differences with students in their classes who participate in the running club, noting that they eat a better lunch and do better in their classes. It also improves their self-esteem and social adjustments as they gain confidence.
“It’s not about running fast,” Whipple said. “It’s about working up to making that mile and improving themselves.”