Going for the gold at the beach

Published 9:30 pm Thursday, March 17, 2011

Oakland Elementary School students, from left, Galilee Kissell, Jacari Tate and Prince McClain, ran one mile every week to train for the Operation Smile Final Mile and Children’s Marathon that will take place at Virginia Beach this weekend. They have run 26 miles already.

Seven Oakland Elementary School fourth- and fifth-graders will complete a marathon at Virginia Beach on Saturday.

The students will compete in the Children’s Operation Smile Final Mile and Children’s marathon, part of the Shamrock Sportsfest.

The students will be raising money for Operation Smile through their registration fee.

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Fourth-grader Jacari Tate said she decided to participate when she read that the race would be supporting Operation Smile.

“I thought I should do it because it would help people,” Jacari said.

To qualify for the event, the students had to complete 25.2 miles — one mile short of a marathon — prior to the event. The Oakland students have been training since October and have completed 26 miles.

The students ran a mile or more a week and earned feet pendants that they put on a necklace to help them keep up with their miles.

The students finished 26 miles on Tuesday.  They will be completing the final mile of the marathon at the Shamrock Sportsfest.

“To run the Shamrock is my favorite part about it,” said Prince McClain, a fifth-grade student. “I think I can do great at it.”

For many of the students competing, this will be their first race.

“I never ran in a race before, so I’m kind of nervous,” said fifth-grader Krystal Avery. “I run a mile in soccer, so I should be fine.”

Team sponsors Anne McCoy, physical education teacher, and Melissa Phillips, fifth-grade teacher, found out about the Final Mile event through teacher friends from another school district. They were excited by the prospect of doing something to promote an active lifestyle and get students interested in the sport of running.

“It’s exciting. We’re going to have fun,” McCoy said.

The student runners generally feel they will be successful in the race. Jacari and other students have detailed plans for their success in the race.

“My strategy is to start off slow, and when I am at the last couple of miles, I’m going to sprint as fast as I can,” she said. “I will run a little more, eat healthier and drink a whole bunch of water. When I start to run, I don’t get cramps as easily.”

For Krystal and Jacari, preparing for the race helps them begin to train for the soccer season and form closer bonds with their friends.

“My favorite part is having fun with my friends,” Jacari said. “While I’m here, I get to socialize while I’m running.”

“I’m really proud of them for doing really hard work to make it to the final mile,” McCoy said. “The fact that they’re running is great.”

The event will begin at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront with a festive pre-race party with lots of green for St. Patrick’s Day at 10 a.m.  The race will begin at 11 a.m.

To everyone competing in the Shamrock Marathon and the Operation Smile Final Mile, Jacari sent this message: “Good luck with the race, and have a good time doing it.”