Girls on the Run participate in 5K 'Winter RUNderland'

    Dhorie Ernzen (left) and Amara Johnson (right) hold hands while running the 5K. (Photo credit to Jasz Garrett/KINY)

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - Saturday morning was Girls on the Run's winter fun run at the Dimond Park Field House.

    Girls on the Run also hosted snacks, games, photos, face painting, and hair decorations.

    Kyle Worl from Tlingit & Haida taught kids two different kinds of high-kicks that are part of the Native Youth Olympics.

    After a group warm-up, the fun run began at 10:30 a.m. The run ended at about 12:00 p.m.

    27 laps around the Dimond Fieldhouse track equaled the 5K.

    It was free to the public and is a bi-annual event. Girls on the Run said their spring fun run is usually outside.

    I Toowú Klatseen means 'Strengthen Your Spirit'.

    Kids were in 3rd through 5th grade, and some team members' families joined in also.

    The teams had about 10 weeks of practice for the winter 5K, starting in late September.

    Natalie Watson, Girls on the Run Statewide Manager with AWARE and sub coach, talked about the values the kids learned this fall.

    "Aiming to do a 5K at the end there, it's like about goal setting and they're trying to increase the amount they can run throughout the season. And then like when they do it, then they know, I can do big hard things if I practice over time. Girls on the Run is all about empowering the girls through running and working with their team building. It's team spirit and it's about peer mentorship and making healthy choices. It's like about learning to kind of look inside and feel their own power about like peer pressure, gossip. Core stuff girls need to know as they go into adolescence."

    Watson said both teams picked a community service project to organize themselves and complete.

    "There was also a community service project that they had to do. They raised money for the Ronald McDonald House. The I Toowú Klatseen team picked up trash. There's always some kind of component. The girls have to come up with a project themselves and run it."

    Watson added who sponsors Girls on the Run.

    "AWARE and Tlingit & Haida partner to put I Toowú Klatseen on and also Valley Medical Care is a financial sponsor. We get a grant from the CBJ to help run both programs as well."

    Above: David Abad (left) and Julay Manzella (right) from AWARE hold signs and cheer on runners.

    Head Coach Breanna Stewart said half of the I Toowú Klatseen team and more than half of the girls on Girls on the Run participated Saturday.

    Stewart is the Head Coach for both the I Toowú Klatseen and Girls on the Run teams.

    She spoke about watching the kids grow throughout practices.

    "I Toowú Klatseen, I had a couple of different staff members tell me that they even noticed a difference in the ability of the kids to kind of like come together and work through differences in a little bit of a healthier way than they had been before. Eight kids were on Girls on the Run this season and they all had different parts where they really were able to shine and excel in different things. They all had those moments throughout the season. So that was really special to see some of the kids that maybe weren't as into the running really shine during the community service impact project. Then other kids really shine by running and cheering on other girls. We did a practice 5K, and some of our early finishers stayed and cheered on the other teammates."

    She added this event was the first big reintroduction of Girls on the Run after the pandemic and she is thankful to have it be part of the community once again.

    Below: Evelyn Hochstoeger completes her final lap.

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