Fitness takes center stage at Turkey Trot

El Roble students got the holiday season, and their hearts, started this Wednesday with their annual Turkey Trot run.

 It is the fourth year the local middle-schoolers hit the track to raise money for the physical education department. The event was created by physical education teacher Deborah Foster, who was looking for a way around the bleak fact there is no funding for the upkeep of their fitness center and for new P.E. equipment.

“The fitness center is such a beautiful facility, I can’t believe that they didn’t give me the resources to maintain it,” she said.

The Turkey Trot was repeated throughout the day, with batches of students in each P.E. period running as many laps as possible in a 16-minute time period. The kids had previously enlisted members of their family and of the community to sponsor the run with a flat or per-lap donation. Kids who ran 8 laps got an A for the day, kids who ran 7 got a B and so on. The students who ran 4 or less laps got a 0 and will be asked to return to the track in the near future for after school make-up laps.

Parent volunteer Tina Houy, who was helping organize the event while wearing a be-dazzled “Claremont Mom” shirt.

“I like the Turkey Trot because it gets the kids moving, and it’s a really nifty way to raise money,” she said.

Ms. Houy tried to hit the track herself for a speed walk as often as she could throughout her daylong visit, even jogging a bit during the period when her son William, an 8th grader, was participating, “just to mess with my kid,” she joked.

She helped put the zero grade in a bit of perspective.

“An older adult can walk 4 laps in 16 minutes,” Ms. Houy said. “I’ve done it myself and I’m your slacker mom slug-abed.”

The students kept the needs of others in mind as well; collecting cans to add to the ongoing food drive hosted El Roble’s student government. Students who brought in a canned good or item of perishable food were awarded with an extra lap, a boost that proved helpful both in terms of their per-lap donations and for their day’s P.E. grade. Many students upped the ante by bringing in 2 or 3 canned goods.

“The kids have done a really good job of making contributions. We really have a philanthropic culture at our school, and I think the parents are pretty proud of that,” Ms. Foster said, indicating a pick-up truck whose bed was nearly filled with canned and perishable foods for the Foothill Family Shelter.

When the COURIER stopped by to watch 5th period P.E. students circle the track, the temperature was nearing 80 degrees and the sun was shining brightly. After a bit of stretching, they took off, led by Brandon Cowgill who was given a plush turkey hat to wear during his run. Seventh grader Solomon Tuliapupu, who was injured with a contusion to his thigh he sustained previously while playing football, served as D.J., filling the P.E. track with the sound of movement inducing pop songs like Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” and Taio Cruz’s “Break Your Heart.”

Brandon ran 7 laps, 8 if you count his can contribution. He attributes his performance to the exercise he gets from playing soccer. 

“It got a little hot with the hat, but I like running,” he said.

The P.E. staff is working hard to encourage a similar level of enthusiasm among all El Roble students. They are putting a strong focus on heart-healthy activities because last year, student scores on state fitness testing dipped in cardiovascular fitness.

“We were really sad about that, because we’re always up at the top,” Ms. Foster said.

Ms. Foster noted they have been implementing fun activities like a tag game, where kids can play their way to greater fitness. They are also continuing with their traditional dance unit, where 8thth graders learn square dancing and 7th graders are taught line dancing moves.

Ms. Foster and her P.E. department colleagues were hoping they would raise as much money through the Turkey Trot as they garnered last year, $5,500. That money was used to replace 4 stationary bikes in the Fitness Center and to buy a whole set of medicine balls and hand weights. If they made enough this year, 4 or 5 more worn-out bikes will be replaced.  Beyond that, the wish list of the El Roble fitness crew includes foam yoga rollers and repairs for 3 exercise machines.

Along with some parent volunteers, this year’s Turkey Trot also drew some district luminaries, with CUSD Superintendent Jim Elsaser stopping by a well as board members Mary Caenapeel and Hilary LaConte, both bearing a donation.

A number of local businesses also contributed, providing prizes for students who went above and beyond in terms of laps run or money collected, including 21 Choices frozen yogurt, Barbara Cheatley’s Antiques, Amelie boutique, Nail Today and the Bloom and Urban Renewal salons.

Results of the Turkey Trot, both in terms of the fastest runners and in the amount of money collected, will be published in a future edition of the COURIER.

—Sarah Torribio


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