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Dent Students Log Miles In Marathon Club
What started out with a group of primarily fourth grade students, taking time to run on their lunch hour last school year, has evolved into a full-fledged Marathon Club at Dent Elementary.

"I would go out on my lunch hour and there were some third graders that ran also because our recesses overlap," explained Dent Elementary teacher Nabby Casteel, who formed the club. "Fifth grade only had a little time (to run) so this year we are doing it before and after school, giving kids from more grade levels a chance to participate."

There has been across the board participation in the program, which helps gets the kids focused in the morning and also gives them a chance to work off some nervous energy. At the same time, they're learning good health habits and staying in shape.

"We probably have 30 third graders that do it regularly," Casteel said of the largest participating grade level group. "They run or walk."

Monday afternoons after school, students hit the track from 2:30 pm. to 3:30 p.m.

Tuesday and Thursday, the club meets for a half hour before school, from 7:40 a.m. to 8:10 a.m.

"I just thought it would be fun for the kids, have the chance to exercise a little," Casteel said. "We had 40 to 50 kids when it was warmer."

Though school is out this week, if the current weather pattern holds, more students are likely to join up with the Marathon Club when they return to campus next week.

"A lot of kids don't get enough exercise," Casteel added. "It's encouraging to me to see (the participation.) Mondays, we get about two to three miles each time, sometimes we've had kids have four miles in that hour."

Tuesday and Thursday workouts average between a mile and a mile and a half per student, and the club keeps track of the miles logged.

Monday's course is a longer one, a six-lap course that follows a trail around the school campus. Tuesday and Thursday, students do a four-lap course on the track at Dent. Most prefer the long course, Casteel said, because it is a more scenic route.

Fourth grade teacher Carrie Nash, a former track and field standout, assists with the club on Mondays and other teachers often help Casteel with getting the students organized as well.

"They put their laps on the computer," Casteel said of tracking how far they have gone.

Tops in the Marathon Club are the McPherrin siblings. Between the three of them, they have logged 153 miles with fourth grader Emily, 9, leading the charge with 63 miles.

"It's fun, you get to exercise," she said of what she enjoys about being part of the club. "I didn't know how much I'd like to run. I like to run long distances."

First grader Bryce, 6, isn't far behind big sister, logging 54 miles of his own.

"Sometimes I go faster than my sisters," he admitted of going for speed rather than longevity.

He also likes to play basketball, and said the club has helped him keep up with the fast pace of the sport on the court.

Third grader Sarah, 8, was more analytical about her reasons to be involved.

"I like getting the energy out," she said of hitting the ground running on Monday mornings. "It helps me stay focused."

Sarah has 36 miles to her credit so far.

"It's really run for the kids," Casteel said. "I enjoy going out there and they just do their laps."

Laps have amounted to around 1500 miles for the club members altogether.

The school also got a grant this year, a grant through which every fourth grade student received a pedometer to keep track of how many steps they take in a day. Dent Elementary Principal Kendra Helsley said that, along with the Marathon Club, plays right in to the new state legislation on a wellness policy in schools, with a focus on healthy eating and more exercise.

"It was perfect timing," Helsley said. "The idea really was Nabby's initially and other teachers have come on board. It's a great outlet for the kids, it gets their hearts pumping and we're raising a new crop of track stars."