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Carrying a torch for fitness - Central Oregonian

June 19, 2012
Crook County High School

The physical education department at Crooked River Elementary School recently nominated their principal, Cheri Rasmussen, for a special award.

It is not your traditional award, however. Called the Torchbearer Award, it encompasses the leadership of the New York Road Runners Mighty Milers, which is a program that encourages fitness for students in the form of walking and/or running. Rasmussen was nominated because of her unwavering involvement in the program at Crooked River Elementary throughout the past three years.

The two physical education instructors at Crooked River Elementary were behind the nomination for the award. Five principals across the nation were given an exemplary award by NYRR Might Milers for promoting physical fitness in their school. Rasmussen was among those five.

“I cannot take any credit for this award whatsoever,” said Rasmussen. “I have two PE teachers, A.J. Pickhardt and Erin Woodward, who are phenomenal and do all of the legwork for our Cougar Club running program. Because we are members of the Mighty Milers, they input how much the children run on the two days that we run during recess per week, and they do all of the legwork for this entire program.”

Rasmussen added that there are several parents who volunteer as well. From the beginning of the program, Rasmussen has been out amongst the students, logging her miles every Monday and Wednesday.

“The most important thing to the kids is the fact that she is out there on a regular basis,” commented Pickhardt.

“She is a good role model,” said Woodward. She added that this gives Rasmussen a way to have interactions with kids for positive things that are happening around the school.

Pickhardt said that Rasmussen changes into her walking clothes and chats with the students while they are out walking or running. At the beginning of each year, she challenges the students to exceed the miles that she logs. If the students get more total miles than Rasmussen, she takes them to lunch at Subway at the end of the school year.

“She is faithfully out there every Monday and Wednesday running—the whole 30 minutes,” noted Pickhardt. “She is logging a lot of miles.”

The Mighty Milers program begins in September and culminates in late May. Students make a commitment to run or walk at least one mile per week. The ultimate goal is to run a total of three marathons, or approximately 78 miles.

According to Pickhardt, the students keep track of their miles in a data base, which tracks student progress. Students get to view their progress against their goal, look at incentives they can earn, as well as the progress of the other classes in their school.

The Mighty Milers program gives the students an opportunity and the encouragement to get moving, release some energy in a constructive way, and improve their fitness level. They can earn certificates and win prizes for running the equivalent of one to three marathons.

Woodward said that the Mighty Milers is really good about providing awards and rewards, but they have to achieve their goals for the year. It is a spin-off from their prior program, the Cougar Club. Students earn medals for logging a total of one to three marathons. They receive a T-shirt if they get 35 or more miles in the year.

“Without Rasmussen and her involvement, the program wouldn’t be as great as it is,” concluded Woodward.

“I have the fun part,” laughed Rasmussen.  “I get to go out and play with the kids, and run with the kids and walk with the kids.” She explained that it is a great time to talk to kids when they are not doing academic activities.

“That is the best part of it.”

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