Kindergarten through third grade races were half mile and co-ed. Grades 4-6 were split into a girl’s race and a boy’s race for their 1 mile run.
Springfield This year’s Washington Irving Pyramid Challenge had the largest turnout in its 11-year history: 864 children from the six elementary schools that feed into Washington Irving Middle School gathered on the school’s grounds for the race. Friends and family lined the race track and gathered at the finish line to cheer. A new highlight this year was the participation of each school’s mascot and a mascot, popular with all the kids. Elementary school students from Cardinal Forest, Hunt Valley, Keene Mill, Orange Hunt, Rolling Valley and West Springfield gathered on the sunny day, each representing their school with a different colored shirt. The help and support of the community, local businesses and volunteers made the registration fee for the runners four canned goods. The collected food was donated to Food for Others, which supports Northern Virginia Families in need.
“It’s really good for the kids,” said Moska Mojadidi. Her children attend Keen Mill Elementary. “It’s good for them to donate, volunteer, help people, exercise and all the groups getting together to meet each other,” she says.
Children ran around the field with friends, danced to music and stretched while waiting for their race time. Ribbons were given out to the top finishers, but it was an informal affair, handed out at the finish line as they crossed it. The course was designed with special consideration so all ages, abilities and those with physical limitations, including walking devices, could participate, said Emily Canny, third grade teacher at Rolling Valley Elementary.
Volunteers from the West Springfield High School cross country team ran with each race as pacers. “They lead the race so the kids in front don’t get lost,” explained Anna McCandless, 14, ninth grader at West Springfield High School, a general volunteer at the event. The pacers also followed at the back of the pack, keeping the runners’ spirits up to finish the race. Other community volunteers included parents and middle and high school students assisting with everything from registration to handing out water or collecting the canned goods.
Local businesses recognize the importance of exercise for the children and the community development through the Challenge event. Some of their assistance included the water, race bibs, race clock and t-shirts. The support of these businesses and sponsors keeps the registration fee as canned goods which allows more children to participate while also giving back to the community through the donation of the food.
“It’s to get kids more active and support exercise. It’s also a unique opportunity to bring parents, kids and the community together,” said Dr. David Hughes of David Hughes Orthodontics, one of the regular sponsors for the event.
The school mascots spent their time posing for pictures and cheering on the kids through fist pumps, waves and thumbs up. At the halfway mark of the event was the mascot race. All the mascots and Dr. Hughes gathered at the starting line. The kids from each school gathered to cheer their mascot then ran across the field to watch the finish line. Sparky the Kangaroo, mascot of Keene Mill Elementary, won.
“The mascots are so popular,” explains Emily Canny, “having them really builds community participation and school spirit.”
“This is one of our first events of the school year,” said Kelly Sheers, principal at West Springfield Middle School. As such it is an event that sets the tone for the school events that follow and the school year. It reinforces the importance of “… building community, sharing fitness… and encouraging students of the importance of giving to others and, as a school, collaborating with others.”