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EJA annual 5K draws a crowd

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    Melanie Lekocevic/Columbia-Greene Media Roughly 100 runners take off from the starting line at the annual 5K race at E.J. Arthur Elementary School on Saturday.
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    Melanie Lekocevic/Columbia-Greene Media E.J. Arthur Elementary School Principal James Martino explains the ground rules at the beginning of the race.
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    Melanie Lekocevic/Columbia-Greene Media Parents, kids and community members alike competed in the Saturday 5K race.
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    Melanie Lekocevic/Columbia-Greene Media This year's race was the event's fourth year in Athens.
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    Melanie Lekocevic/Columbia-Greene Media First graders do some push-ups to prepare for the race.
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    Melanie Lekocevic/Columbia-Greene Media Runners sign up at the registration table to compete in the 5K.
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    Melanie Lekocevic/Columbia-Greene Media Runners mill around before the start of the competition.
April 15, 2018 12:15 am

ATHENS — Some of these kids have been preparing for this race for weeks, and on Saturday they had the chance to strut their athletic stuff.

Roughly 150 runners — kids, parents and community members — competed in the annual 5K race sponsored by the PTO at E.J. Arthur Elementary School in Athens.

This was the race’s fourth year.

“This is our major fundraiser for the year to support all the programs we do for the children at E.J.A.,” said PTO President Jen Grounds. “It’s also a great way to show the students how the community comes together to support them and their education.”

Among the programs the organization sponsors are assemblies that teach kids about things outside the usual school curriculum.

“We just brought in a reptile assembly, a climate change assembly, we have an anti-bullying assembly coming up,” Grounds said. “We also give a book to each student at the book fair.”

Other activities the race helps pay for include a snack closet, the fall Harvest Festival, Breakfast with Santa, and a picnic that honors a teacher struck by a car several years ago, along with Grandparents Day.

But as every athlete knows, you don’t just get up one day and run a 5K. These kids put in the hard work before the race even began.

Third grade teachers Desiree Pacuk and Jason DeLuca, both runners themselves, taught the kids how to get ready.

“We talked to the students about nutrition, pacing, and how you start slow and build up toward your speed,” Pacuk said. “I run with the students, and I think it helps. The kids get excited about running when they see their teachers doing it — my class told me they are all going to beat me. I told them they probably will.”

Putting their training into action, a group of first graders was warming up outside the school before Saturday morning’s race, doing push-ups on the curb while their mothers watched.

“This is my son’s first year in the race,” Nancy Yannone said of her son, Zef. “He has been talking about it all week.”

Shana Yannone watched as her son, Kaden Patterson, warmed up. “He is very excited about it,” she said. “He has been doing push-ups all week.”

Elementary school principal James Martino said the annual event is good for the kids on multiple levels.

“This motivates kids to be outside, to exercise and be healthy,” Martino said. “And it certainly brings the school community together. There are kids here and adults from across the area.”

The weeks prior to the race are just as important.

“Running up to the event we do assemblies where different staff members tell the children how to prepare for a race — what to eat, stretching, what you do to prepare for an event like this. Some of our teachers have run marathons, triathlons, 5Ks, so they share their experiences with the kids and get them excited about it,” according to Martino.

The race is a fundraiser for the school’s PTO and the programs it sponsors, but $5 of each registration also goes to Hope’s Mission, a charitable organization that provides needy students with backpacks filled with food on weekends.

At the finish line, the top male runner was Isaac Lasher with a running time of 22:56, and the top female was Danielle Seymour with a time of 28:09.

Runners were divided by age and gender.

Among the males, the top runners were as follows: kindergarten - Bryce Hendricks and Leroy Weiler; first grade – Valentino Marino and Crew Cox; second grade – Weston Martin and Hudson Seekamp; third grade – Ryker Cox and Kaleb Slater; fourth grade – Liam Ross and Roderick Herdman; fifth to eighth grade – Isaac Lasher and Blaine Apa; there were no high school runners; ages 19-29 – Henry Proper; ages 30-39 – Tim Furgal and John Cox; ages 40-49 – Dave Taylor and Doug Earle; ages 50-59 – Sean Meagher; age 60 and over – Jim Warren and Ernest Armstead.

Among the females, the top runners were as follows: kindergarten – Olivia Conrad and Sydney Kratochwill-Hutton; first grade – Olivia Krstovich and Lydia Jo Herdman; second grade – no competitors; third grade – Emma Roberg and Florence Martin; fourth grade – Camryn Slater and Carmindy Van Schaack; fifth to eighth grade – Kasey Purdy and Reese Taylor; high school – Rita Luccio and Rachel Rebusmen; ages 19-29 – no competitors; ages 30-39 – Danielle Seymour and Maggie Garland; ages 40-49 – Kim Soyka-Holt and Carrie Taylor; ages 50-59 – Desiree Pacuk and Kathy Pacuk; ages 60 and over – Robyn Lutz.