Steamboat Springs Kayedence Bruner couldn’t sleep Friday night.
The South Routt third-grader was filled with excitement and nerves. Saturday marked her first experience with the Girls on the Run 5-kilometer event.
“Oh boy,” Kayedence said after her parents Kim and David revealed her anticipation. “It was my first year. I’ve never done it. I just got really, really nervous.”
There was little reason for nerves, however. Kayedence was flanked by her sister Kourtney and about 900 other runners.
Girls on the Run is a national after-school program targeted at girls in third to eighth grades and designed to empower and teach lessons to participants. The 10-week program was capped with Saturday’s event.
And what a scene it was. Parking at the start of the race at the Steamboat Springs Middle School filled up hours in advance. Lots at the high school filled up more than an hour before the 11 a.m. start. Shuttles ran to the starting line, but a large contingent of families walked on the sun-soaked November day.
“This is the most visible way that you see it,” said Jill Henwood, the executive director of Girls on the Run in Western Colorado. “You see the girls helping each other out to finish. It’s awe inspiring.”
There were 600 girls from Eagle, Summit, Moffat, Routt and Eastern Garfield counties. Add in 150 coaches, 100 preregistered runners and day-of runners, and the total count might have crept close to 1,000 runners — all in the name of Girls on the Run, an organization that aims to build confidence through running, teamwork and positive thinking.
“At the beginning of the season, they don’t think they can run three miles,” said Cheryl Krumrie, one of the local organizers. “At the end, they know they can.”
It was the second year the event took place in Steamboat. It seemed a natural fit with the outdoor mindset Steamboat provides. The event, which used to take place in Grand Junction, was moved to Steamboat as the program grew in surrounding counties.
It also helped that local race Director Shannon Casson expressed interest in hosting the event.
“We want to get them out of that girl box as they get into high school,” Casson said. “You see a shift in the way they carry themselves. It’s tangible.”
In Routt County, 150 girls participate in the program. It’s become so popular that the program had to turn away some participant hopefuls because it sticks to a 15:1 student-to-coach ratio.
Still, as girls poured across the finish line Saturday, there was evidence of what the program strives for: Smiles were everywhere. Medals were handed out. And all who competed finished.
Even Kayedence. Friday’s uneasiness and sleepless night melted away. In fact, she was one of the first participants to cross the finish line.
“I’ve learned to try your hardest and do your best,” she said.
Here’s hoping a good night’s sleep is on tap for Saturday.
To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com