Sylvan school board president challenges students to race

Chad Brown didn't have much of a school board race this fall -- none, in fact. So the Sylvan Union School District board president, unchallenged for his political seat, challenged the district's middle- schoolers to beat him in a one-mile run.

Friday afternoon, about 120 Somerset Middle School students did. And they walked away with evidence -- an

"I Beat Mr. Brown" certificate.

"It felt like the best way we can encourage kids to develop healthy habits is to see the adults they respect with those healthy habits," said Brown, 53, who has done triathlons and recently completed a 500-mile bike race in Oregon.

Alfonso Rosales, 13, admitted sniffing out his competition by going to the field at 7:30 a.m. to watch Brown race another group of P.E. students.

"I was just trying to beat him," said Alfonso, an aspiring soccer player who bested Brown's fastest time of 7 minutes, 51 seconds. "I had to beat him."

And it wasn't just kids Brown had to worry about. The race brought in custodians, teachers, office staff, classroom aides and a librarian.

About 1:30 p.m., Brown was walking a little stiffly and dumping protein powder into his water bottle. During the course of the day, Brown ran six races.

"My hips are sore, my back's tired, but I'm doing this for the kids," Brown said with a smile.

P.E. teacher Rachel Steffen used a bullhorn to put a target on Brown's back before the last race of the day.

"The man in the white shirt and blue shorts is the man you want to beat," Steffen's voice blared across the field.

"My strategy is not to quit while I'm running," said 14-year-old Gybran Valdivia. "We always try our hardest, but it's good to have him."

Seventh-grade English teacher Samia Merza Luo ran the mile with her students for the first time.

"I motivated them; I talked a lot of smack," she said with a smile. "They'll go to any length to beat their teacher."

Brown will challenge Savage Middle School students to a one-mile run on Nov. 2 and Ustach students on Nov. 14.

Bee staff writer Merrill Balassone can be reached at mbalassone@modbee.com or 578-2337.