By Leonard COUTIN
On Saturday, Griffith Park was once again home for the annual Run 4 Fun cross-country meet sponsored by LA84. Since its inception in 1987, Run 4 Fun has introduced Los Angeles County middle school youngsters, ages 10-14, to the sport of distance running.
Representing Rosemont Middle School and foothills elementary schools were 56 sixth, seventh and eighth grade students who took part in the two kilometer course. The coach for Rosemont’s cross country team is Doug Laing, who teaches fourth grade at La Crescenta Elementary, assisted by Mary Burkholder, an elementary PE assistant at Dunsmore, Monte Vista, and Valley View elementary schools.
After working the 10-week curriculum, held from September to December, the students were introduced to cross country fitness. Saturday was the first experience many of the youngsters have had running and getting in shape.
CV running stars, including Nathan Seller, Zack Torres, Shelby Pock, Claire Collison, Rachel Lange, Michele Callister, Carlotta Pham, were among the many who participated in Run 4 Fun and later placed high in the state rankings.
Unlike the storm of last year that cancelled the event, on Saturday morning the weather was perfect, allowing the runners their chance to compete.
The first race of the day was the division of the 13-year-old boys followed by the girls race. Shane Wade of Rosemont placed fifth (6:24) racing against Bryan Jimenez of Millikan Middle School who won the race (6:18).
Rosemont teammate Robert McNelis placed 19th (6:54).
For the girls, Amber Mateer from Rosemont placed eighth (7:46) followed by teammate Nicole Wilson placing 11th (8:06) and Abby Rogers placing 22nd (8:45).
The division 12-year-old boys and girls race resulted with Rosemont Kyle Dickinson taking fourth followed by Walker Smith capturing 16th (7:09), Ethan Walsh placing 25th (7:24) and Cameron Tenner running 28th (7:25).
Rosemont girls Rebecca Frink took eighth place (7:49), Elise Ortega took 10th (8:00), and Sunho Yoon placed 15th (8:13).
The final division of the 11-year-old and under boys and girls. Placing for Rosemont was Benjamin Allen who took 12th (7:22), Justin Ostler at 16th (7:29), and Cole Davis landed 23rd (7:46).
For the girls, Alison Kwan took 22nd (8:21), Madison Davis took 30th (8:32) and Sophia Bringas took 50th (9:10).
Rosemont ended the day placing third overall, which pleased Laing.
“I am very excited that we placed third,” he said. “I am very impressed. We worked very hard to get [the students] to run the hills and to never walk during the run. These two focuses gave us an advantage. I am more than excited to go back next year and beat that. After doing it once, I know how to prepare them to do even better.”
Millikan Middle School, which had almost 200 students participating this year from all ages, once again took the overall winners’ trophy. Second place was Paul Revere Middle School.
Laing had praise not just for Rosemont’s third place position, but for the organization overseeing the event.
“I think it is great that LA84 is working to inspire middle schoolers to try out athletic programs,” said the coach who didn’t start running into well into his 20s. “If I would have done something like this in middle school I might not have waited till I was 29 to run.”