Girls on the Run alumni now cross country team captains

by Paula Nasiatka, GOTR coach, Tanque Verde Elementary

     Captain Carsen, Coach Ventola, and Captain Meg

Captain Carsen, Coach Ventola, and Captain Meg

Meg Healy and Carsen Mastrangelo participated in the first team of Girls on the Run (GOTR) at Tanque Verde Elementary School two years ago. Tanque Verde Elementary had just started the program in the fall of 2012 and this was the first opportunity for girls to sign up with volunteer coaches Paula Nasiatka, Sara Thomas and Elizabeth Medina. GOTR is a national non-profit school based program that encourages 3rd-5th grade girls to develop self-respect and healthy lifestyles through running.

Meg and Carsen had heard about GOTR and were excited to join the 10 week program. They were natural leaders to the younger girls in the program and mentored other girls during the workouts leading up to their final 5K (3.1 mile) run at the end of the season.

After Meg and Carsen completed 6th grade at Tanque Verde Elementary, they went on to Emily Gray Junior High. In 7th grade they joined the Emily Gray Junior High Bobcats cross country team. This year, in 8th grade, they were elected co-captains by their teammates.

Meg noted that “Girls on the Run was some of the best running training I got before I tried out for the team.”

Carsen reflected on her experience, “Girls on the Run helped to build my confidence. I went from ‘I wonder if I could be a runner’ to ‘I AM a runner!'” I don’t think I would have considered cross country if it hadn’t been for the experience of Girls on the Run.”

In addition to Meg and Carsen, 7th grader Ellie Nasiatka is also a GOTR alumni who is on the Emily Gray Junior High cross country team. Ellie developed a love for running when she participated in GOTR for three years at both Agua Caliente and Tanque Verde Elementary Schools. Ellie also mentored the younger girls when she was a 6th grader last year.

Carsen in full stride during a meet

Carsen in full stride during a meet

Emily Gray Junior High cross-country coach Lindsay Ventola is very familiar with Girls on the Run and feels it’s a wonderful program. She recently moved to Tucson from New Hampshire where she was a running buddy for two girls in a GOTR program in Portsmouth, NH.

Coach Ventola reflects, “Running is more than a sport; it is a lifelong practice, and an important hobby/routine to get kids involved with. GOTR creates an opportunity not only to “hook” girls onto running, but it also provides a place for veteran female runners to teach our young ladies the essential aspects for future success. Physically, running demands a great deal of us. Perhaps more challenging, and more importantly, running requires motivation, determination, self-reflection, and confidence – skills I think every young girl should gain and experience in her life. In college, I worked as a nanny after school. I felt so fortunate to be a running buddy with the two elementary school girls I babysat. On a daily basis, I was inspired by these girls. Throughout the program they challenged themselves, improved their time and stamina, built their confidence, made new friends, and walked away with a love of running. Every kid, especially our young girls, should have the opportunity to feel this sense of accomplishment.

This GOTR ¨effect” has clearly come through in both Meg and Carsen, my two 8th grade captains on the Emily Gray cross country team. From the day I met them, both Meg and Carsen stood out to me as the natural leaders. The program teaches these girls what it means to be a leader, it teaches them to be driven in reaching their goals, it teaches them to be kind and supportive of the younger runners, it teaches them to be the best athlete they can be, and a confident person overall. Whether running in snow and ice, or sand and rocks, the Girls on the Run are gaining a solid foundation for a healthy, successful, and most importantly, happy lifestyle.”

Meg approaching the finish line

Meg approaching the finish line

Girls on the Run was established in 1996 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The GOTR curricula, the heart of the program, provides pre-adolescent girls with the necessary tools to embrace their individual strengths and successfully navigate life experiences.   The earliest version of the 24­ lesson curriculum was piloted in 1996 with the help of thirteen brave girls.  Twenty-six girls came the next season, then seventy-five.  In 2000, Girls on the Run International, a 501c3 organization was born.

With the help of over 120,000 volunteers, the Girls on the Run program is now serving over 150,000 girls in 200+ cities across North America each year.  In 2013, Girls on the Run hosted 258 end-of-season 5k events across the United States and Canada. Tucson has a very active GOTR program with Tucson Medical Center as the sponsor. For more information: http://gotrtucson.org/

 

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