Local girls run in New York

From Staff Reports

Aug. 26, 2007 - Ten Hopkins County high school girls who are members of Camp New York Running Club returned from camp on Aug. 5 after eight days of running in New York City and in the Catskill Mountains, which are 100 miles north of NYC.

Former Class A cross country, 1,600-meter and 3,200-meter state champion Tracie Akerhielm led the camp. Akerhielm ran for North Hopkins and Texas Tech and currently works for Run On! in Dallas. She emphasized running form, shoe fit, core strength, running hills, and nutrition.

North Hopkins senior Cayla Newkirk commented, “ Tracie made me realize how important it is for a runner to eat healthy. It’s okay to eat junk food - just not everyday.” Freshman Jessica Jones learned how running with straight posture improves her time.

Akerhielm was assisted by Sabra Thomas, a North Hopkins graduate who received an All-Star Award in cross country this summer for her four-year career. Thomas plans to walk on the UT cross country team in August.

In New York City, the runners trained at the historic Van Cortlandt Park on part of the course used by high school runners for the Foot Locker Northeast Qualifier. The girls stayed in dorms at nearby Manhattan College.

The favorite run of the week for half of the girls was the trail around Jacqueline Onassis Reservoir in Central Park. After this run, they were fortunate to speak with the “Mayor of Central Park,” Alberto Arroyo. At age 91, he still exercises in his wheelchair on the trails of Central Park. He ran in the first NYC Marathon and is a local celebrity.

Senior Jessi Mannis, who placed sixth in Class A at the State Cross Country Meet last fall said, “Talking with Mr. Arroyo is my favorite memory of New York City.”

In the Catskill Mountains, the runners worked out on several trails and hilly campground roads. These mountains rise to an elevation of over 3,000 feet; the elevation of Sulphur Springs is close to 500 feet. At the top of one trail the girls could see five states.

The runs in the Catskills were the most challenging of the week. Most runners agreed the most difficult run of camp was three miles down a rocky trail and then up the same trail.

Miller Grove senior Stormy Combs, the only runner not from North Hopkins, stated, “During training now at home I’m not breathing as hard. I feel like I’m breathing in more air.”

NH sophomore Brittany Whaley explained that training is easier now “because of the hills we ran there.” Junior Virginia Thomas said, “We ran a lot that week - it was a good start to training.”

Between training sessions the teens visited several historic sites. In New York City, the overall favorite tour was of the Statue of Liberty because, as Combs explained, “that’s America’s symbol of freedom.” 

The Thomas sisters most liked riding on the subways. The girls also went to the top of the Empire State Building and Broadway and they toured Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s home and the Vanderbilt Mansion. A restaurant with national fame, the Carnegie Deli, is freshman Blair Bassham’s favorite memory: “Oh, my gosh! Those sandwiches were so huge!”

The camp also included water fun. Sophomore Scarlett Lozano’s favorite activity of the week was tubing on the Esopus River. Freshman Laiken Gammill most enjoyed Kaaterskill Falls, the highest waterfall in New York State.

The running camp was made possible with the generous help of 139 sponsors in the Sulphur Springs, Emory, and Hopkins County business communities. The girls also raised funds with cake and pie sales, a garage sale, and a dance.

The annual running camp is open to all high school girls who are serious runners. For information, contact Janis Thomas at 903-395-4431.

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