36th annual Wellsville Mile runs through Wellsville Square (with audio and video)

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Nine elementary schools, more than 1,400 runners and 36 years of tradition marked this year’s Wellsville Mile. With hundreds of cheering students, teachers and parents filling Wellsville Square, the event proved once again that Cache Valley’s children can do amazing things.

The race’s fastest time belonged to fifth-grader Tate Hickman from Heritage Elementary, who ran a mile in just five minutes, 50.5 seconds. Andie Andrus, in sixth grade at Wellsville Elementary, was the fastest young lady of the day, finishing in six minutes, 10 seconds.

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“At first I didn’t want to run at all,” said Andrus, “but once I started running and warmed up and stuff, I was more okay with it and I was ready to try.  When I was finishing, I didn’t really realize that I was in first place, and so I kind of just kept running. The lady that was running with me from Ridgeline, she was like, ‘You can win this,’ and stuff.  I really didn’t think I could, and so when I passed the finish line I was really happy that I did win.”

What advice does Andrus give to next year’s participants?

“It’s not that bad once you get going, so just try,” she said. “And if you hate running, just get it over with!”

The Wellsville Mile is a rite of passage for students on the south end of Cache Valley.  Prior to the reconfiguration of Cache County schools this year, participants in the race were fourth and fifth-graders, so the sixth grade runners of 2017 have enjoyed three years of the Wellsville Mile. Nikolas Britt, a cross country runner and junior at Mountain Crest High School, remembers when he participated.

“It wasn’t too long ago when I was here,” he said, “and when I ran this, I ran like a 15-minute mile, but now I can run like a 5-minute mile, so it’s really important to see these kids come out here and try to run, try to improve their time and, you know, stay athletic. Stay healthy, you know? Just be good.”

Members of the cross country teams from both Mountain Crest and Ridgeline high schools spent the morning running the one-mile course to support the fifth and sixth grade participants in the annual race. By the end of six heats in each grade level, some of them had run a total of 12 miles. Sarah Frandsen, a sophomore at Ridgeline, said she ran at least eight.

“I just remember when my brothers ran cross country, they came and ran with me,” she said. “It just really encourages you to do a lot better. Being the older person that gets to run with the kids is really fun.”

Karen Muir, who has been involved with coordinating the Wellsville Mile for 30 years, said the event is important because it teaches students about commitment.

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“We do the Wellsville Mile every year because it is a good thing for kids,” she said. “Kids have to learn that they can do tough things.  They get self-esteem from doing things that are difficult and being able to succeed, and if you do something and train consistently, when the day comes to actually run the race, you can do it.”

Carrie Kirk, whose fifth grade daughter, Caroline, ran the race, spoke of the tangible excitement in the air.

“It’s just such a fun tradition,” she said. “Even when the weather’s not great, the energy’s high and everyone’s so excited and it feels like you’re walking into Disneyland with the music and the kids just so happy. It’s really fun.”

Kirk says it’s also been enjoyable to watch the fifth-grade girls in her Providence neighborhood train for the race.

“Sometimes they’ll grab each other and go for a run,” she said. “I think it’s a great tradition to promote health.”

During an awards ceremony following the race, Tricia Duersch from Wellsville Elementary School said she was proud of every runner who crossed the finish line.

“Man! Can I even tell you how awesome it is to be at that finish line and see how hard you have worked and that you finished?” she asked the crowd. “You should all feel so proud of yourselves that you came, you ran and you finished.”

With another successful Wellsville Mile on the books, Duersch, Muir and Teressa Breinholt—the Wellsville Elementary team who co-directed the event—can catch a collective breath themselves.  When the clouds break, the sun shines and 1,427 accomplish a great feat for fifth and sixth graders, it’s a good day! And that’s why they’ll do it again next year…

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