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Friday, February 14, 2020

Wyoming Middle School Heart and Sole Team Runs 5k

The Wyoming Middle School Heart and Sole Team had a successful day at the Girls on the Run final 5K run.

By Michelle Colpean

Anyone who has been through middle school can tell you it is tough. But one organization at Wyoming Middle School is making it a bit easier through miles and miles of hard work.

On November 16, the Wyoming Middle School Heart and Sole Team participated, along with over thousands of other Cincinnati girls and their running buddies, in a 5K run starting at Sawyer Point. The race, hosted by their greater Cincinnati chapter of Girls on the Run, showcased the strength and hard work of teams throughout the semester as they prepared their bodies and minds for the challenge.

The Wyoming Middle School group was made up of 20 girls, most of which were sixth graders who had never participated in a sports program before. The team had been preparing for the big race since early September, working with a group of six volunteer coaches who are staff members at the school and alongside an eager group of three assistant coaches and running buddies from Wyoming High School. What started with a few laps around the middle school culminated with a successful race for the entire team. With a team full of strong personalities and the backdrop of all the usual middle school struggles, the team harnessed what could have been negative energy into logging miles and supporting each other.

While the weather for the final 5K was sunny, albeit a bit chilly, I would argue that the true test of the team’s grit came during their practice 5K two weeks before. I was able to join the team on their scheduled practice day, where coaches had labeled the course with signs, volunteers prepared water and snacks, and family members, teachers, and coaches assembled after school to serve as “running buddies” for one-on-one support for the girls. It had sprinkled throughout the afternoon, and the weather only looked colder, windier, and rainier as the afternoon went on. As the girls laced up their matching shoes, provided by Girls on the Run and its sponsors at the beginning of the season to ensure all team members will be on equal footing, they looked out the windows suspiciously. After a few announcements, when asked if they had any questions about the run, one girl asked, “Do we seriously have to go outside in this?” It was hard for them to be excited and hard to blame them for their lack of enthusiasm.

As soon as the girls left the start line, the rain became heavy and the temperature began to drop. Volunteers, school district employees, and other family members who came to support the team huddled inside, as the team members – clearly tougher than the rest of us – made their way through the course. As they made their way through Wyoming and back to the front doors of the school, volunteers were waiting outside with a soggy, crepe paper “finish line” so each girl could feel the weight of her accomplishment as she broke the tape.

While the girls could have stayed warm and dry back inside the school, and enjoyed a post-race snack table provided by volunteers, most chose to wait outside in the cold rain to cheer their teammates on as they crossed the finish line. As the final girls approached the finish, along with head coach Stephanie, their teammates stood in the rain and cheered each other on. Weeks earlier, many girls struggled through a mile at the end of practice. But on the day of the practice 5K, each girl finished their 3.1 mile race with the full support of their teammates, coaches, and volunteers. And while the organization doesn’t focus on competitive dynamics or time-bound goals, the team members were especially proud that everyone finished in under an hour, despite the unfortunate weather. Their hard work was rewarded at the final 5K race, where they were finally able to run on a beautiful fall day, not only with each other but also their fellow Cincinnati Girls on the Run from across the region.

The program’s curriculum focuses not only, and perhaps not even primarily, on running, but also on communication, building confidence, balance, and managing conflicting emotions. Before their sneakers ever hit the pavement, each practice features a lesson and activities about an issue the girls may experience, ranging from topics such as resolving conflict, setting goals, or asking for and giving help. And while these lessons are often a bit chaotic or even earn an occasional eye roll, it was clear at the rainy finish line, among other points in the semester, that Wyoming’s Heart and Sole team had taken these lessons about friendship, teamwork, and achieving their goals to heart.

Outside of the Wyoming Heart and Sole team, Girls on the Run of Cincinnati facilitates 96 additional teams in 11 counties across the tri-state. More than 40% of the girls in the program require some level of scholarship to participate. If you’d like to donate, volunteer, or learn more about the organization, visit or seek out the organization on Facebook.

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