Nearly 9,100 children and their families took advantage of Saturday’s blue skies to participate in the 10th running of Junior Bloomsday.
Organizer Dan Petek said this year’s event at Joe Albi Stadium went smoothly. Each of the age groups started on time and only a handful of children became separated from their parents. They were later reunited.
Participation was up from about 8,200 last year, in part because schools in the area were competing to have the most students sign up and train for the event.
Temperatures in the 40s didn’t seem to discourage anyone from showing up.
Jeremy Galles, 11, of Shiloh Hills Elementary School, said he and his brother, Justin, 8, were there for the exercise and the fun.
His father, Mike Galles, said he encourages his children to be active. “We try to get involved with the boys and all they do,” Galles said. “It keeps them out of trouble.”
Shanna Edwards, 10, of Deer Park, said she spent the past month training after school with other children. They started with half-mile runs and worked their way up to two miles.
The training paid off, she said. The two-mile course, which loops around the fields north of Albi Stadium, was easy for her.
Her sister, Kristina Edwards, 8, was beaming because, she said, she was the first girl to cross the finish line among the 8-year-olds.
Their father, Clayton Edwards, said athletics runs in the family. “I do a lot of sports myself, so I think they should be active, too,” he said.
Children ages 5 through 12 are eligible to participate, and each age group runs at different times throughout the morning.
The course is set in varying lengths. The oldest children run two miles. The younger ones run courses of a half-mile or mile.
As the children run, parents and spectators watch from the stands. Groups of runners are managed by volunteers who make sure the children are safe on the course and get sent back into the sections where parents are waiting.
Organizers don’t keep track of individual winners. Competition is discouraged.
“We’ve intentionally not had any winners,” said Petek. “We want kids to achieve something and have fun doing it.”
The main idea is to improve fitness for children, and also provide a family-oriented event, he said.
Many of the children graduate to the regular Bloomsday course as they get older, Petek said.
The number of participants this year was about the same as it has been in each of the past six years. Early registration was 8,900 with another 200 or more signing up late.
The schools with the highest percentage of participation are eligible for cash prizes to purchase playground equipment. The winners were not immediately available.
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