On Saturday, May 20, the first-ever Northport chapter of the national nonprofit Girls on the Run organization participated in a 5K race at Eisenhower Park. The event was an opportunity to achieve the team’s goals, and showcase each individual runner’s inner and outer strength.
Girls on the Run is an activity-based youth development program designed to enhance girls’ social, emotional, physical and behavioral skills to help them successfully navigate life experiences. There are over 50 Girls on the Run teams on Long Island and this year, a group of 13 girls from Northport-East Northport entered the program, with coaches Lauren Kearon, Amy Willie and Maria Costello leading the way.
The 10-week program curriculum designed for girls in grades 3 through 5 includes 20 team practices blending both running and personal development, with an emphasis on building confidence, connection and character. Each girl receives a program journal that includes prompts for exploring her “star power,” including how to engage in self-talk, find balance, communicate with friends and define her strengths. The girls took part in goal setting exercises and explored their limitless potential, all while building their physical endurance on the new path at Steers Park in Northport Village.
“This curriculum was created to encourage girls to not only be active in terms of physical activity, but also to be active in their communities and give them the skills they need to succeed in whatever path they choose in life,” said coach Kearon. During their practices, the girls spent time journaling and participating in team-building activities, she said.
Members often ran with a partner so they could talk along the way, which served as a distraction, Kearon said, while enhancing the girls’ communication and problem-solving skills. They would discuss different scenarios provided by Kearon and how they’d react to them, and then explain their answers as a group afterwards, during a moment of reflection.
To cap off their 10-week session and 5K run, the group met for a community service project organized by the girls. Zoe Wood and Ella Gribben, the two fifth graders on the team, wanted to collect garbage they’ve seen at the Northport Middle School playground. The girls also wanted to protect a piping plover nest outside the school fence, where garbage is often misplaced. Yesterday afternoon, teammates filled several bags of trash and made “Do Not Disturb” signs for in front of the nest. Ella said if Girls on the Run took the time to clean up their school environment, and showed their peers, it would have a lasting impact.
The entire Girls on the Run program has made her feel more confident, Zoe shared, like she can accomplish more after going through the group lessons. She and Ella held hands as they crossed the 5K finish line, soaked from head to toe from the all-day rainstorm.
Maeve Tamaro, a fourth grader at Ocean Avenue School, said that she will definitely do the program again next year. “It was really fun getting to know people who are older and younger than me,” she said, adding that she enjoyed being partnered up with different girls. She said that hitting the finish line after running the 5K felt “really good because all the work before it was a big accomplishment” and if she never joined the program, she’d never be able to complete a race of that length.
The Girls on the Run organization was established in 1996, in Charlotte, North Carolina and it has grown exponentially every year since. Today, it involves more than 200,000 girls annually and there are over 350 races a year across the United States, making it the largest 5K series in the country. In addition to the curriculum designed for girls in grades 3 through 5, there’s also a program for girls in grades 6 through 8; Kearon said she may start that age bracket when her daughter gets older.
At the end of their final meeting, which included pizza and a visit from Northport Village Trustee Meghan Dolan, each girl was gifted a bracelet with a compass on it. Coach Kearon explained that it’s to remind them that through life, they can move in any direction, as long as they keep moving forward. The girls provided a gift to Kearon in return, a bracelet with the word “fearless” on it – a trait she saw come alive in the girls during their first season together. Kearon’s daughter, Emma, who crossed Saturday’s finish line alongside her mother, was wearing a pancho and a Girls on the Run pink superhero cape.
The 2023 Northport Girls of the Run team includes: