There’s a new craze running through the Kennedy and DePaolo middle schools these days. It’s not a new clothing trend, the latest video game or one of the many realty shows on television, but actual running – and more students are signing up than ever before.
The town now has more than 200 students involved in the middle school cross-country program – 116 at Kennedy Middle School and 86 at DePaolo Middle School – and the program is proving an active way to keep students fit, encourage teamwork and learn important life lessons.
Simply put, it’s about running the distance and never giving up, whether you finish first or 100th, said Kennedy Cross-Country Coach Jim DiNello.
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“We wanted to create a program where the students had the opportunity to get involved and not feel like they have to have a particular talent; something where they could just have fun and remain active everyday,” DiNello said.
“When we started seven years ago, we had 30 participants. Now there are 116 (at Kennedy) for this latest meet. It’s really taken off.”
The program at both schools has grown into more than just a couple of sports teams, instead morphing over the last several years to host meets that have truly become a community event. As the two schools raced head-to-head on Wednesday, parents were lined up and students from both schools were mingling and interacting with each other.
Earlier in the day, Kennedy students held a breakfast with nearly 90 team members, dressed in their t-shirts as they ate and started the day together.
Samantha Nardi and Jake Secondo, both eighth-grade students at Kennedy, said it has been a great experience no matter where they finish the race.
“It’s really a great way to just be part of something, to be part of a team,” said Nardi, who is now running for her second straight year. “I never really thought about doing cross-country before, but it’s been so much fun. I have made so many new friends doing this.”
Mike Garry, coach of the DePaolo cross-country team, said he has been so impressed by the way the students have come together and made the program their own.
He said the students will cheer as loud for their friends in 80th place as they do for the ones finishing first and make sure everyone completes the race. Some students will even turn after finishing and join those still running to encourage them as they cross the finish line.
“We just want them to reach for their goals and see if they can do a little better each time. Our goal isn’t to win, it’s to instill confidence, encourage teamwork and help them grow into healthy and caring adults.”
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