Running team prepares for season

Published 9:47 pm Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Dillon Wasinger of the Suffolk New Energy Youth Running Team leads a group of runners during the 800 meters at a regional track and field meet in Maryland this past July. (Photo submitted by Steven Sheppard)

Dillon Wasinger of the Suffolk New Energy Youth Running Team leads a group of runners during the 800 meters at a regional track and field meet in Maryland this past July. (Photo submitted by Steven Sheppard)

A growing running group in Suffolk aims to reach youths ages 6 to 16, regardless of their ability or motivation.

The Tidewater Striders’ New Energy Youth Running Team seeks to provide opportunities and coaching for anyone, whether they are simply trying to develop a running habit or they are seeking to train for competitive races.

New Energy creates an informal, fun and sociable atmosphere to prepare and develop as a runner through a group approach to running practices.

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Steven Sheppard, head coach at the Suffolk training site, described an average practice, which lasts about an hour.

“Usually, we do all our stretching and warm-ups together and then break up a bit for age- and ability-specific running workouts,” he stated.

The challenging part of his job is tailoring separate appropriate workouts for participants.

Runners take part in endurance-building runs, speed-work and relay races.

New Energy got started more than 20 years ago with its initial group based in Virginia Beach. The Suffolk branch started about four years ago with only a handful of kids.

Since Sheppard took over head coaching duties, he has been able to grow the group to more than 35 kids. Sheppard and his assistant coaches are volunteers.

“One (assistant) is a former personal trainer and military spouse/mom, one is an award-winning race walker and one is a young up-and-coming early 20s runner in the area,” Sheppard said.

Serious runners in the group are given the opportunity to compete in track and field and cross-country events sanctioned by USA Track and Field and the Amateur Athletic Union.

There is also a series of one-mile road races called the Youth Grand Prix.

Aside from awards handed out at each race, New Energy team members compete with each other for points throughout the year. Points are awarded to the top five New Energy finishers in any given race. First-, second- and third-place awards for each age level are given at year’s end. Suffolk’s New Energy runners are developing a reputation for speed.

Sheppard said the reasons kids seem to like the groups can be summed up in four F’s: fun, fitness, fellowship and getting fast.

Having past experience coaching junior varsity cross country and track, Sheppard has enjoyed leading and developing young runners again. He said he loves seeing them “break through barriers that they had mentally, teaching kids that ‘I can’t’ is one letter too many, and having them own that.”

Fall training begins Sept. 5, and the Suffolk New Energy team practices on Mondays and Thursdays at Sleepy Hole Park from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. A $12 annual membership fee for the Tidewater Striders is required after participating in two practices.

Runners should bring a good pair of running shoes. Uniforms and warm ups can be purchased, but are optional.

For more information, email NewEnergySuffolk@gmail.com or contact Angelo Celesia at 288-7715 or acelesia@aol.com.