Extracurricular Running: Fitness and fun go hand-in-hand at Chester Middle

“The only thing better than running club meeting once a week would be if we met twice a week,” exclaimed seventh grader Emily Johnson.  Johnson is one of a gym-full of Chester Middle School students who meet each Wednesday during the winter months.

“We enjoy getting together with our friends.  It is productive fun,” added Tiffany England.  Logan Faughn chimed in: “Hanging out while staying fit is a great combination.”

The running club serves as a bridge between the cross country and track seasons, Coty Moore said. “By participating in running club, we don’t have to start all over in the spring.”

The club is the brainchild of longtime Chester teacher Geof LeSueur.  Ten years ago, LeSueur was trying to come up with an idea to keep kids active during the winter months, while at the same time helping to maintain the successes of the scholastic running programs at Chester.  

“I threw it out to the kids and was amazed by the turnout,” he said. The program includes about 80 students on roll, with an average attendance of about 50.  This represents more than 10 percent of the Eagles’ student body.  

“It is great emotional therapy for both me and the kids,” LeSueur said. “We are staying away from the TV and gaming systems with a serious fitness program. The emphasis is on fun without the competitive pressures that come with being on a team.”

The program draws a cross-section of students.  There are equal numbers of boys and girls participating.  While serious athletes do participate in the program, it is just as common to see students who have no athletic experience. The youngsters show great support to one another as they go through their fitness routines.

A typical week consists of a two-hour session, during which students work on their core strength, take part in a 20- to 30-minute run and play a fitness game, such as capture the flag or fox and hounds.  All of this is done in a manner that promotes a healthy lifestyle and social interaction.  At the end of the season, LeSueur distributes eight

“Gatorade Awards” to the students who showed the greatest enthusiasm and spirit during the program.

LeSueur believes that the program is so successful because, at least in part, of the uniqueness of the Chester community.  He doubts if a similar program would draw the same response next year at Carver or Elizabeth Davis middle schools, where students will be bussed a greater distance.

“It is something I will truly miss when Chester Middle closes its doors in June,” he said.

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