Cook Elementary forms running team, instills confidence

The students trained for 10 weeks in preparation for the race.

Cook Elementary forms running team, instills confidence
December 15
14:39 2021

Sports can play a pivotal role in a child’s life. For the athletes on Cook Elementary School’s running team, it is setting the foundation for better things to come.  

The idea for the running team at Cook came from their physical education teacher Annette Kozlowski. Kozlowski says last year she and some of her female students competed in a Girls on the Run event, but wanted to include the young men this year and that’s how she came across the Go Far 5k runs.

Go Far is a training program that helps prepare kids for 5k runs. Go Far’s training program also includes character building lessons that allow the kids to discuss how good character translates into qualities of a good runner, good student, and a good person.

“I just happened to be at a workshop and Go Far was there advertising and they let boys run in the program, so that’s why we did Go Far in High Point,” said Kozlowski.  

The idea of running a 5k race was not a big hit when Kozlowski initially introduced the idea to the kids at the school.

“At first they were a little apprehensive, because we did a Girls on the Run last year, but the boys were not involved, so the boys and girls were a little apprehensive practicing together,” she said. “But once they started practice and could see it was cool to be on the same team and have the same goals, then they bought right into it.

“Practice consisted of running games, so half the time they didn’t even know they were training. So, the response was good once they had all the information and talked to all the parents. The parents were so supportive, so that was good.”

To prepare for the race, the students practiced two days a week for 10 weeks. Every Monday and Tuesday the runners would hit the track from 3:15 p.m. to 5 p.m. to get ready. Every week, Kozlowski saw endurance growth in all her runners.

“It was remarkable,” Kozlowski said about the growth her runners displayed. “We have a track out back and the first day most of them could not run one lap and by race day a couple of them ran the whole race without walking.

“Also, most of them also beat their PR (personal record) practice time in the race as well.”

There were 11 runners total who competed in the race in High Point on Nov. 13. Jackson Gibson, Di’Misha Watson, Khy’Ree Cox, Freddy Maneo, Aaron Martin, Curtisie Dawkins, Gabrielle Robinson, Dream Roundtree, Nariah McCrae, Reginald Kelley and MaRiya Nelson were the students who competed on race day. Kozlowski says she was proud of each and every one of her students for how well they performed.

“When they got on the bus, they were nervous and excited, but they ate their snack and they calmed down,” she said about the students before the race. “Before we got off the bus, I just reminded them that they were representing Cook and that they have done all the training and don’t let all the people freak them out.

“There were almost 800 people that ran. It was a big race, especially for kids that have never ran. Out of the kids, there was only one girl that ran last year that ran this year. So she kind of knew what to expect, but the other ones kind of went in blind, so there was a lot of nerves going into it.”

The kids wanted to stay together and run as a group, but Kozlowski told them that the race was about them and she wanted everyone to go out and do their best.

“I told them from the get-go that everyone has different goals on race day,” she said. “You can start off with your friends, but this is about you and what you can do. They started off together and then they gradually spread out throughout the race.”

This race not only included kids, but also adults. Fifth grade student Freddie Maneo finished 143 out of 768 competitors, which brought Kozlowski a lot of joy.

“I guess he would not consider himself a runner and going into it I probably wouldn’t think he would be the one, but as the weeks went on and on, his stamina just built with his endurance and confidence,” Kozlowski continued.

“He had an amazing race and I think he was pretty blown away with how he did and where he finished.”

Kozlowski was such a nervous wreck that she didn’t sleep much the night before the race.

“It really was such a proud moment just seeing these kids go through what they have to go through sometimes and putting it all behind them and getting out on race day with all these other kids from all these other cities and representing Cook and putting their training into effect and having their best race ever,” she went on to say. “I felt like a proud mom to be honest with you.”

Following the race, the kids were “overjoyed with excitement,” Kozlowski said. “The group hung out together to celebrate their hard work after the race. With such a great finish, Kozlowski says they are attempting to coordinate a 5k race at Cook sometime in the spring for the entire community to participate in.  

Kozlowski has noticed some positive changes in the students on the team and hopes that continues beyond this year.

“I think that I have definitely seen a change in every one of them as far as their leadership in school, grades, and confidence,” she said. “It has done nothing but positives for them as far as confidence and their leadership skills in the classroom.

The kids were also proud to be a part of the running team.

“I thought it would be fun and I like running track,” said Gabrielle Robinson about why she decided to join the team.  

MaRiya Nelson says it was exciting and nervous to get out there and run with all the people during the race.

Freddy Maneo says he was scared and nervous, but once he got out there on the course, he was ready to run.  

Kozlowski wanted to give a special thank you to Kathy Jacobs, her assistant coach, Denise McCoy, and Cook Elementary Principal Celena Tribby for all of their assistance with the running team.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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