On a day when most Americans were reaching for another helping of turkey, a group of girls from Northeast Elementary School were reaching their goal as they completed the annual 5K Turkey Trot in Goldsboro.
Clad in neon green socks so their adult running buddies could keep track of them in the crowd of runners, the Girls on the Run team from Northeast capped off nine weeks of training by taking on the 3.1-mile course.
And beating it.
All 20 girls who lined up at the starting line ended up at the finish line. “We had six girls that ran the whole race without stopping, and they came in with real good times,” Q’Neisha Williams, the school counselor at Northeast and a Girls on the Run coach, said.
Williams, who says she doesn’t particularly like to run but does “because it’s healthful,” signed on to help form a Girls on the Run team at her school after teacher Marissa Jones suggested it and linked the school up with the Goldsboro YMCA, sponsors of the Turkey Trot there.
Twenty-three girls from grades three through five completed the nine-week training program with Williams and Jones, the head coaches, and co-coaches Melanie McCoy and Natalie Williamson.
They taught the girls stretching exercises and the mechanics of running and oversaw their practices twice a week. But that’s not all the girls learned.
“They were practicing to learn how to run a 5K,” Williams said, “but before they practiced we’d give them a healthy snack and do our character-building lessons – about self-esteem, self-awareness. We’d teach the lesson and do an activity that relates to the lesson. Then they practiced running.”
Northeast has no track, but the school does sit on a very large plot of land. “We’d run around the school,” Williams said. “Six times around Northeast is a 5K.”
Although Girls on the Run was created at Northeast as an after-school program for students, it generated a lot of interest among adults. The contingent from the school that showed up for the Turkey Trot numbered more than 40, including the club members, running buddies, parents and school faculty and administration, with principal Kendra Woods among them.
The program at Northeast also spawned a sister program at nearby Rochelle Middle School, where older girls formed the Heart and Sole running club and participated in the Turkey Trot.
The nine weeks of training is over and the goal of running a 5K has been reached, but Northeast’s Girls on the Run aren’t finished. “We’ll start back up again in February, getting ready for the spring 5K,” Williams said. “The girls are excited for it to start again and the parents have been asking about it.”