Wilson’s Mighty Milers racing today, every week toward a stronger finish

03/22/2014 6:46 PM

03/22/2014 10:48 PM

A jog around the playground can do more than raise heart rates and respiration. Wilson Elementary staff credit an informal running club with raising attendance, and parents say it has raised school spirit. Now a community fitness group has raised donations, outfitting Wilson’s Mighty Milers with new shoes and paying their entry fees for today’s Surgical Artistry Modesto Marathon, which also includes a half marathon and 5K race.

Sixth-grader Maribel Ceja sat on the playground Friday, tying up neon pink-soled Nikes, wearing a matching skirt and a mile-wide grin. “I love them!” she said. Maribel, 11, is a regular with the Mighty Milers, tracking the times she circles the blacktop on Mondays and Fridays before school.

“I just enjoy running. I like it because we get some exercise,” she said.

Sitting beside her friend, waiting for a shoebox with her name to be called, Anela Vallejo chimed in, “When you’re superhyper, it calms you down.”

Asked for his name before he dashed off on his first lap, a preoccupied Leonardo Augulo, 10, answered, “Fifty-six. I’m at 56 miles.” Not all at once, of course.

Anela and Maribel were among the 26 runners getting new shoes in advance of today’s race. Get Fit Guaranteed studio members donated so much for student race entry fees that there was enough left for shoes, said spokesman Daniel Rosales Perez. “We put a message out to members. Within five minutes, we had the fees covered, and it just kept coming,” he said. “Everyone just came together.”

The studio is working with Principal Sue McHann to offer an after-school program focused on healthy lifestyles. McHann believes in exercise but started the running program more for its fun side, a way to encourage her 331 students to come to school each day.

“Monday and Friday were my worst attendance days, so I was thinking: What could we do to bring those days up?” she said after a couple of laps around the schoolyard Friday. On a list of Modesto’s 22 elementary schools ranked by attendance, McHann said, “We went from 18 to 9.”

Other efforts, including parent meetings that stress regular attendance, have helped. But the bump up on Mondays and Fridays she attributes to running.

“They love coming out here,” said Mike Kaz, parent of third-grader Cody and kindergartner Cheyenne. “They get very excited about their miles.”

“She says she gets all her wiggles out,” said Ryyn Farias of daughter FelicytyThe kindergartner likes the running time, she said. “She likes to mingle with the older kids. She’s made friends.”

This morning, Wilson runners were to gather before sunup, don their new shoes and official numbers, and take off running.

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