Montpelier students train for raceRural schools can’t always offer the same opportunities larger districts can. But according to rural educators, that doesn’t mean their students are left in the dust.
Rural schools can’t always offer the same opportunities larger districts can. But according to rural educators, that doesn’t mean their students are left in the dust.
With just more than 100 enrolled kindergarten through 12th grade, Montpelier Public School can’t always do the same as larger schools. Physical education, for example, is limited to a gymnasium — no weight room and no treadmills.
But that hasn’t stopped educators from creating opportunities for students to experience events other students may not.
This Saturday, 13 Montpelier Martins from seventh grade through sophomore year will trade their cowboy boots for running shoes at the Fargo Marathon.
In its seventh year, the Fargo Marathon hosts about 20,000 runners in its marathon, half-marathon and 10-kilometer races. It begins at the FargoDome and even includes a pasta and lefse feed before the race.
Each of the students plan to run the 5K Friday evening and the 10K Saturday. A 10K race is about six miles. The students have practiced since fall, with the most intense training beginning after Christmas break.
The preparation for the race originated as an activity for students to learn a life-long fitness activity for students of any fitness level. Some of the students participate in sports like basketball and track, but Montpelier doesn’t offer endurance sports like Cross Country.
“All of them were pretty green when it comes to longer distances,” said Nick Stoterau, special education teacher who co-organized the run with Physical Education Teacher Michael Smith.
The group of 13 runs together sometimes, throughout the city of Montpelier and its bar, city building and an out-of-use gas pump. Or they start at a drop-off location in the country and traverse back to the school. The various routes create different running scenarios.
About 100 people live within the city, which is located about 20 miles southeast of Jamestown.
Wherever the students run as a group, Smith and Stoterau circle either by bike or bus to motivate and keep a watchful eye on students. The group runs regardless of rain, shine or snow, teachers said.
But for most of the running, the students were required to complete it by themselves, four times a week.
“We’re trying to teach them to be responsible and self-directed,” Smith said.
Seventh grader Brandon Baker said he runs more than what the teachers’ recommend.
In fact, he runs double.
One day he even ran from Montpelier, across U.S. Highway 281, to a friend’s house in Millarton, N.D. The distance between towns is about 10.6 miles. Brandon visited with his friend in Millarton for a few minutes before he turned around and ran home again.
Like Baker, many of the students run before and after school.
“We’re both surprised at how much they’re getting in on their own,” Stoterau said.
Freshman Blake Naze even ran during his gym class instead of the attending its regular lesson. The son of a dairy farmer, Naze didn’t have a lot of time after school to squeeze in the suggested miles.
“I had to get home to work,” Naze said.
Seventh grader Morgan Harr said he wanted to run for the challenge.
“I wanted to see how fast I could go,” he said.
When his older brother, eighth-grader Trystan Harr, signed up a few days later, their mother balked.
“My mom thought it was a joke, me doing it” Trystan said. “She thought I was doing it for the girls.”
He’s not, Trystan said, although three girls — Bethany Lies, Tyra Baumgartner and Amber Robinson — plan to run this weekend too.
And the 80 percent chance of showers forecasted for Friday and Saturday? That’s a non-issue, Smith said.
“If it’s on, we’re running,” he said.
To prepare for the race, students not only ran as a group and on their own, but they learned lessons about diet and fitness during their lunch breaks, sometimes even watching videos on YouTube.
And teachers led by example.
Smith said he started the group in part, for selfish reasons — the students would motivate him to get in shape. And Stoterau said he lost 30 pounds just by running and watching what he ate.
The students also raised money — about $2,200 — to pay for transportation, hotel rooms and meals. And the students were responsible for their own registration fee — about $60 depending on when the students registered.
And students and their two teachers aren’t the only ones involved. Lynn Krueger, the principal and superintendent, is one of the chaperones along with Renee Brown, Tonya Kramer, Daniel Hepner and James Bear.
Krueger said the marathon has been the talk of the school — along with graduation this Sunday and the rocket-building science class, which earned a trip to the national Team America Rocketry Challenge.
He said he appreciates what the students learn about healthy living, but also what they learn and how it contributes to work in the classroom.
“The more exercise you get, the better your grades are,” studies show, Krueger said.
The primary goal of the marathon training was a health lesson. But the lessons extend far beyond endurance techniques and nine-minute miles.
Some of the students, for example, showed up to practice in Wrangler jeans and cowboy boots. They didn’t own sweatpants, Smith said. It wasn’t that they couldn’t afford them. They’d just never needed to purchase them, he said.
Others have never visited a city the size of Fargo, especially during a big event like this weekend’s marathon, Smith said.
The experience is educational as well as cultural, he said.
Most of the students expressed excitement about the race, although some said they were nervous. Stoterau, however, said he was convinced the students would “get the bug when they go” to Fargo.
Sophomore Lindsey Hansen doubted himself Wednesday.
He hasn’t felt the high some runners do when running several miles. Running, he said, still feels like work sometimes, rather than fun.
The bodies of new runners sometimes fight back — meaning muscles get sore, bodies tire and the experience can be miserable. But one of the motivators for students is the sense of accomplishment.
“You will have done something that no one else in the building has done,” Stoterau said to Lindsey.
Stoterau and Smith said they hope the feeling continues even after the race.
“We’re just hoping that the kids have enough fun that they might want to do this for the rest of their lives,” Smith said.
Sun reporter Katie Ryan-Anderson can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by e-mail at kryan-anderson@ jamestownsun.com