By Brandon HENSLEY
While shoppers are running around searching for gifts this holiday season, students from the Rosemont Middle School cross-country team have just been plain running, and on Saturday they’ll put their months of preparation to the test in the annual Run4Fun.
Rosemont will compete in the race, which is a 2K, or 1.25 miles, at Whittier Narrows Park in South El Monte. The race is put on by the LA84 Coalition and the venues switch year to year. The runners are sorted by gender and age, and last year Rosemont students had success in several groups: Collin Fitzgerald, Henry Mencia, Caitlyn Couch and Logan Neil were all top five finishers in their age/gender races. Logan also finished first in the 12-year-old division.
Doug Laing was the coach the past three years, but he’s stepped away this year and now Ben Neil, Logan’s father, has taken over.
The kids have been practicing since mid-October. In every practice Neil takes them through proper stretching and dynamic warm-ups, and moves on to interval training. He times the runners in 800-and 1,000-meter races, and then a mile.
“Basically each week I build a workout a little longer,” said Neil, who coaches with the L.A. Falcons track and field team.
Over 90 kids signed up for the team and Neil said about 80 have stuck around. The main message he tells the kids is maintain focus, keep proper stride and worry about what you’re doing, not what others are doing.
“My attitude is not comparing yourself to the next guy,” he said. “It’s just about how well you do every week, to get a little better. The kids are having a blast.”
Like previous years, sixth-grade students from other schools in the area have joined Rosemont students for the race. Neil says those kids aren’t intimidated by running with the junior-highers.
“They’re just totally enthusiastic about it. They’re so excited to run with the big kids,” he said. “The way I frame it is you’re running on your own, so you focus on what you’re doing. I teach them how to breathe and to have proper stride.”
As a parent, Neil has seen how happy the kids are to finish the race, and he’s excited to see them cross the finish line this time as a coach.
“Every kid is just beaming, and every kid is pulling for Rosemont and their team,” he said.