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Kids get their day at races

SUNDAY, APRIL 22, 2007

The cold and spitting rain could not deter throngs of kids as they hurried past bundled parents Saturday for the 22nd running of America’s Kids Run at Joe Albi Stadium.

The race, formerly known as Junior Bloomsday, had nearly 2,500 participants ranging in age from 5 to 15.

“They are just so fun to watch,” volunteer Julie McGrath said. “It’s a little chilly, but they make your heart warm because they give you such a high.”

Race founder Mike Erwert said the idea for the race came about in 1985. Erwert was an avid runner, but his 4-year-old son could not make the full 12-kilometer distance of Bloomsday.

Erwert and another organizer approached Albertsons, and their advertising dollars sponsored the race for the first nine years. Then in 2000, the name was changed when the race became affiliated with Armed Forces Day.

As a result of that affiliation, the event spread first to Army, Air Force and later Navy bases. On Saturday, the Spokane-founded race was one of 153 such competitions featuring about 22,000 kids participating at U.S. bases around the world, Erwert said.

“This is where it all started,” he said. “If you look at high school competition, Eastern Washington dominates cross country. We believe it’s because many kids here get to run at an early age, and they fall in love with it.”

Curtis Balogh, a 13-year-old runner from Sacajawea Middle School, said he started running seven years ago after attending an after-school program sponsored by Spokane School District 81.

“It’s been a passion since I just started in first grade,” said Curtis, who Saturday ran two miles in 13 minutes and 32 seconds. “It’s been my sport ever since.”

This race kicks off Curtis’ cross country season, said his parents, Pete and Elise Balogh, of Spokane.

“July and September are his only down times. It takes a lot of time, but it’s given him a good friendship base. It’s something he can belong to,” Elise Balogh said. “This is a good season starter. It’s good to get them fired up for competition.”

Chris and Amy Bolz braved the cold to watch their daughters, 12-year-old Jalen and 13-year-old Jasmine, run.

Jalen, who finished 10th in her class, also runs track and said she prefers sprints. Jasmine said she just started running track.

“Both did pretty good,” Amy Bolz said. “It’s a good event. We just come out for the fun.”

Although rain threatened, it mostly held off during the races.

“The sun came out for the 7-, 6- and 5-year-olds, so that brought a smile to everyone’s faces,” Erwert said. “It went really well.”


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