WHEELING - In an effort to encourage students to "get their heart rates up and their calories down," Ohio County Schools is teaming up with the Ogden Newspapers Half Marathon Classic Run and Walk to improve children's health.
Ohio County Schools Superintendent George Krelis said the partnership will allow students throughout the district to train to either run or walk one of the race's Saturday events, be it the 5K Run and Walk for Health or the half marathon itself.
Beginning next school year, gym and health classes wil\l use the distance race as an example of a healthy lifestyle, he said. Assistant Superintendent Dianna Vargo, who will take over as superintendent this summer, said the program will encourage healthy choices both inside and outside the classroom.
"Students will learn about exercise and nutrition and can participate in the race, and hopefully take that information home and share it with their families," said Vargo, a frequent participant in the 5K event.
Wheeling Park High School health and physical education teacher Mark Nardone said the program will have many benefits for teachers and students alike. Additionally, Nardone said studies have shown a direct link between exercise and better performance on school tests, which he hopes will translate into better grades for participating students.
"We are fighting a tough, uphill battle with the amount of calories students are eating the lifestyles some of them lead," he said. "We're trying to get them moving."
Race Director R. "Scat" Scatterday said he is delighted to enter into the partnership, adding race fees for students beginning next year will be cut 50 percent to encourage as many as possible to participate.
Krelis also said the district is looking into ways to pay for race fees and will seek community support for that initiative. In the meantime, Nardone said 54 students are running in this year's race, slated for Saturday, with many participating in different events.
"Some of the students have run on their own in the past, and so they know what they're getting into," he said. "Others are trying it for the first time and are starting with the 5K, but any participation is good."
Nardone said he hopes the classroom program will lead to the formation of a runner's club at Wheeling Park, which he said could run in various 5Ks around the area in preparation for the Ogden Half Marathon, which would serve as the final event.