Sports

New Bainbridge Park District program aims to keep island kids running

(Front, L-R) Heidi Washenberger and Jim Whiting are part of a new cross country group starting in the fall. Some of the coaches involved are (back, L-R) Marianne Lindsey, Anne Howard-Lindquist, Kay Jensen and Vivianne Shiach. - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
(Front, L-R) Heidi Washenberger and Jim Whiting are part of a new cross country group starting in the fall. Some of the coaches involved are (back, L-R) Marianne Lindsey, Anne Howard-Lindquist, Kay Jensen and Vivianne Shiach.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

t Several long-time runners form Bainbridge Blazers XC to race in the fall.

With the recent success of the all-comers meets and the Go Run! program, it seemed like only a matter of time before a cross country program was established.

Enter the Bainbridge Blazers XC.

The club, co-founded by all-comers founder Jim Whiting and Go Run! founders Heidi Washenberger and Anne Howard-Lindquist, is a program designed to fill the void between the track programs at Sakai Elementary and at Woodward Middle School.

The program is run through the Bainbridge Park District and is geared toward kids in sixth, seventh and eighth grades. There is a cost of $180. No running experience is necessary.

Practices start Sept. 8 and are held Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 3:15 to 4:45 p.m. at Woodward or several other locations on the island, including the high school, Battle Point Park, Fort Ward or Hidden Point. Whiting said they will also take part in a tentative schedule of five meets, though participation in those is optional. The season goes through Nov. 1.

Howard-Lindquist, the high school’s cross country coach, said the idea came about after attending last year’s state cross country meet in Pasco and discovering that many middle schools in Eastern Washington have cross country teams. From there, she and Washenberger worked out the details after a Go Run! board meeting.

“There’s a lot of enthusiastic runners in track, but there’s no running opportunities in the fall,” she said. “Some girls in Go Run! wondered if there was anything they could do once they got to Woodward, so rather than have them wait a year, they can take part in something in the fall.”

Howard-Lindquist said there is a precedence with Kay Jensen (one of the volunteer coaches), who had a lot of success years ago with a fall conditioning program.

Howard-Lindquist also said they plan to make things low-key in order to draw in those who have never tried running or haven’t had a good experience with a team sport.

“I think this will appeal to a different type of athlete,” she said. “It’s not so intense that some motivated kids couldn’t fit it in if they were doing something else, but it’s not so overwhelming that kids can’t handle it.”

Whiting, who will be the head coach, said they’ll provide a variety of workouts designed to introduce kids to cross country running, including working on pacing and form. But they’ll also play a lot of running games in order to have them enjoy what they do.

“The kids can do their miles, but we’ll do it in a way that makes it fun for them,” he said. “Kids that don’t have that running background think ‘oh, running’s boring,’ but myself and the other (volunteer) coaches who have been running for 20, 30 years or longer wouldn’t have done it if it was boring.

“It’s about introducing kids to running as a lifetime sport,” Whiting continued. “The thing about running is it’s a good base for any other sports they’re interested in doing.”

There will be some scholarships available to those who want to join but cannot pay the fee. Whiting said they’re still looking for volunteers.

For more information and details about the program, visit jimwhiting.org. For registration info, visit biparks.org.

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