Each elementary school in the Surry County School district has a GROW Strong running club. GROW is an acronym for Go Run Our World. This initiative began with Superintendent Dr. Travis Reeves’ enthusiasm for health and wellness and love of running. Rockford and Flat Rock elementary schools organized clubs two years ago and now all eleven elementary schools have clubs.
Each club has a sponsor that helps with expenses. Sponsors are Tim Hamlin Farm Bureau – Cedar Ridge; Carolina Laser Designs and Copeland Ruritan Club – Copeland; Surry Insurance – Dobson; Animal Medical Services – Flat Rock; Chick-fil-A – Franklin; Kevin Powell’s Foothill Ford – Mountain Park; Surry Yadkin Electric Membership Corporation – Pilot Mountain; Surry Central High School Cross Country Family- Rockford; Pilot Mechanical – Shoals; anonymous – Westfield; and Choice Metal Buildings – White Plains.
On Thursday, Nov. 16, more than 300 students took part in the first ever GROW Strong 5K at Fisher River Park in Dobson. The race began at 10 a.m.and by 10:56 a.m., all 330 student runners had completed the race. Tripp McMillen, a fifth grader at Dobson Elementary, was first over the finish line with a time of 20:43.1.
Deanne Fitzgerald, the GROW coach at Rockford Elementary, won a grant through a free website group called The Billion Mile Race. She received a banner, bracelets for each runner, safety pins, bibs, a wireless microphone, a blow horn, and a $50 Visa card to purchase healthy snacks or water. She, along with DeAnne Danley and Ashley Mills, organized the event.
Surry County Parks and Recreation hosted the event and worked with the organizers to ensure all accommodations were met. The School Nutrition Department provided bag lunches for the teams and High Country Springs donated water. Numerous volunteers provided the extra support needed to make the day a safe and fun event for the students.
“I was so impressed with our students today,” Reeves said shortly after the race ended “It was a great day for Surry County Schools. I want to thank the coaches for the work that they put into their GROW Strong Teams and the leadership that they have displayed in this program.
“All of our kids were winners today by finishing the race due to the coaches’ persistence and encouragement. I also want to thank the organizers and volunteers for a great day. The event was positive, well organized, and lots of fun. I was really encouraged by the demonstration of teamwork exhibited by students and adults.”
Before the awards program, Joe Sinclair, lifelong educator, coach, school administrator, and former superintendent, addressed the students regarding his experiences with running and sharing some funny stories. Since 2009, he accomplished many running milestones such as completing 210 marathons and 18 ultra-marathons.
He is a member of the North American 100 Marathon Club because he was the fourth North Carolina runner to complete more than 100 marathons. In July, he completed three marathons in three straight days during July, beginning with the rugged Grandfather Mountain Marathon, which is the one of the 15 toughest in the world.
He completed his 10th consecutive Grandfather Mountain Marathon this July. He is in the B. Marathon Hall of Fame as being the first runner to complete more than 1,000 miles in that particular marathon series. In addition, he has written three children’s books, two educational books, and three books about fitness, running, and walking, all available on Amazon.
With the assistance Sinclair, Reeves presented the following awards to third, fourth, and fifth grade students.
Third Grade Girls: Stella Wall of Rockford Elementary, who completed the course with a time of 26:25.2; Catherine Chaire, Cedar Ridge, 26:50.7; Ava McPeak, Cedar Ridge, 27:01.8;
Fourth Grade Girls: Yuri Cabrera, Rockford, 28:34.9; Addyson Boaz, Pilot Mountain, 29:20.5; Allee Glenn Kiser, Pilot Mountain, 29:21.7;
Fifth Grade Girls: Rubi Cortes Rosas, Dobson, 23:28.5; Addison Goins, Pilot Mountain, 25:56.3; Natalia Bautista, Rockford, 26:20.4;
Third Grade Boys: Dru Gaddy, Dobson, 25:08.8; Hayden Wood, Rockford, 25:30.8; Aaron Morales, Copeland, 26:33.2;
Fourth Grade Boys: Brayden Woodring, Dobson, 21.03.9; Michael Fischer, Shoals, 22:04.7; Cade Atkins, Cedar Ridge, 22:28.1;
Fifth Grade Boys: Tripp McMillen, Dobson, 20:43.1; Elijah Shelton, Cedar Ridge, 22:22.4; Dylan Heg, Shoals, 22:30.9.
Dobson Elementary accepted the award for overall fastest boys’ team, and Rockford Elementary accepted the award for fastest girls’ team. White Plains Elementary received the team award for most participation.
The finale presentation was for the GROW Strong All Heart awards for male and female. Clara Brooks, from Mountain Park Elementary, and Cristian Gomez-Bautista from Rockford Elementary, won those awards. Coaches could nominate students for this award based on attitude, participation, courage, and team spirit.
Many parents were in attendance to support and cheer for their children as they ran across the finish line. Parents complimented the event and shared their appreciation for the many character traits their children were gaining by participating on the GROW Strong teams.