Oct. 30, 2013
SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. - For a runner, each completed workout, each finish line crossed, is a tangible triumph over a series of external deterrents.
Adversity, pressure, mental and physical exhaustion - these are things a runner knows well. Each course, much like life, requires the ability to overcome such challenges while simultaneously assessing and adapting to a consistently shifting set of circumstances on the path to achieving a goal.
For these reasons, there are several inherent characteristics of a runner, and the act of running, which lend themselves towards providing meaningful guidance for those on the path to adulthood. This is the premise on which Girls on the Run International has been built and there is no greater representation of its merits than the existence of the organization's over 140 chapters across the United States and Canada.
Over three days last week, even as the squad was firmly entrenched in preparation for the biggest meet of the season, all 16 members of the Seton Hall women's cross country squad took time out to partner with the New Jersey chapter of Girls on the Run; participating in four separate events aimed at furthering the organization's mission.
Girls on The Run is billed as a "life-changing, character development program for girls in 3rd through 8th grade" that through a dynamic, experience-based program which "creatively integrates running," strives to promote self-confidence, happiness and the value of a healthy lifestyle over the course of a 10-week program.
Throughout the program, participants combine training for a 5,000-meter race (5K) with a series of educational discussions centered on the issues that typically affect young women approaching adolescence. Trained volunteers impart life lessons through the use of interactive running games and workouts, providing a well-rounded experience that aids physical, mental and emotional growth.
Having faced many of the challenges addressed within the program, the members of the Seton Hall cross country team were an ideal fit to become mentors in their own right.
Last Monday, sophomore Alex Ryan (Aurora, Colo.) joined juniors Allyson Guieb (Robbinsville, N.J.), Mary Migton (Ledgewood, N.J.) and Louisa Ozimek (Strongsville, Ohio) in kicking-off the Pirates' participation, helping lead a session held in Taylor Park in Millburn.
The central themes of this, and all of the Pirates' appearances were similar in that they featured insight from the Seton Hall representatives on their experiences with running, why it is important to them, what it is like to be a collegiate cross country runner and the college experience in general. The Pirates also often took part in the character-building activities, as evidenced when sophomores Amanda Quaglia (Reading, Pa.) and Samantha Young (Upper Black Eddy, Pa.) along with freshman Tiffany Callanan (Toms River, N.J.) worked with the girls who attended the Clinton School session in nearby Maplewood.
At this particular session, the theme of the practice was the effect of peer pressure, and the Seton Hall women who went to that session each shared about a time they were peer pressured and they stood up for themselves.
"I loved working with the girls," said Young. "I wish they had a program like this when I was in elementary school. I really felt like we helped make a life-long difference in their lives by teaching them how not to fall to peer pressure and by building their self-confidence through running."
"I felt like we made a positive contribution to these girls' lives," added Quaglia. "I was happy to be looked up as a positive role model, and I definitely found the experience to be rewarding for myself as well. I hope these girls are inspired by all of our stories we told about how to work hard and to never give up."
SHU was out in full force on Saturday with a substantial presence at two more sessions in Maplewood. Sophomores Amanda Catherall (Farmingdale, N.Y.) and Maggie Jodon (Orange, Conn.), juniors Bri Miller (Bayonne, N.J.) and Felicia Mingrone (Shelton, Conn.) as well as senior Kristen May (Shrewsbury, Mass.) took part in one session at Memorial Park while Migton was accompanied by senior Nyala Eddings (Chicago, Ill.) and freshmen Desyre Blackburn (Aloha, Ore.), Caitlin O'Kane (Morris Plains, N.J.) and Holli Rolle (Nassau, Bahamas) at another session at the Jefferson School.
"This was a very memorable experience for me, personally," said Catherall. "It was nice sharing my personal running life with the girls, and to be a good example for them. The theme of my practice was to always persevere through the difficult runs. I enjoyed giving tips to the girls on how to always think positive, and know that they can do it, and never give up."
"Running with the girls afterward showed me that, my teammates and I were role models to them as runners," she continued. "Their coach said to us that it was the best practice that they have had so far because we were there to encourage the girls through their run. Also, it humbled me because it is truly amazing how these little girls are going to be running a 5K at the end of their season at such a young age."
"Girls on the Run is an incredible program and we were happy to be able to support them at some of their practices," added Migton. "Sharing our passion for running with the girls was an amazing experience."
The Seton Hall women's cross country team returns to action this Saturday, November 2 when they head to Wisconsin for the 2013 BIG EAST Championship. For more information on Girls on the Run CLICK HERE