Sarah Meyer, from left, Margaret Dickson and Taylor Olson jumped for joy this month after summiting 14,265-foot Quandary Peak  during a Girls on the Run outing.

Courtesy photo

Sarah Meyer, from left, Margaret Dickson and Taylor Olson jumped for joy this month after summiting 14,265-foot Quandary Peak during a Girls on the Run outing.

Preadolescent Routt County girls learn to cope with life through physical challenges

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— If a 9-year-old girl can climb 14,265-foot Quandary Peak, she certainly can complete a 5K run. In fact, a girl who can climb one of Colorado’s 55 14ers probably is prepared to accomplish all kinds of things in the future.

A group of climbers from third through eighth grades and their adult partners who take part in the Girls on the Run program in Routt County summited Quandary this month as they work toward their goal of completing a 5K run here in November. The same race attracted to Steamboat in 2012 more than 600 girls from the Girls on the Run Western Colorado chapter along with several hundred more runners.

One of the members of the climbing group was 9-year-old Emma Bessey, who was attempting her second 14er this summer. She said part of her motivation for getting to the top of one of the tallest mountains in the lower 48 states came from the reward that waited at the bottom.

“I was thinking, 'This is really long. My feet really hurt. But I’m going to make it to the top so I can get ice cream when I get down,'” she said. And in case you’re curious, that would be mint chocolate chip ice cream.

You don't have to get out of your chair to climb Quandary Peak vicariously, but you'd be missing out on the challenge.

Girls on the Run was founded in 1996 in Charlotte, N.C., with the intent of helping preadolescent girls recognize their own strengths and provide them with the tools to navigate the life experiences ahead of them. Today, 55,000 Girls on the Run volunteers help meet the needs of 130,000 girls.

Lisa Olson, of Steamboat Springs, is on the board of directors of Grand Junction-based Girls on the Run Western Colorado. She said one of the positive results of the local program that involves 200 girls — including youngsters from South Routt, Hayden and Craig — is that it builds bonds and mutual respect among girls of different ages. And those friendships often carry over into the school setting.

“Our core values include helping the girls recognize their own power and responsibility and to think about their decision making,” Olson said. “We find the strengths of each girl and encourage them to be grateful for other people and their strengths.”

Sarah Meyer, 13, confirmed that Girls on the Run fosters a culture of older girls encouraging younger girls.

“When I was in sixth grade (and starting middle school), there were eighth-graders there, and you’d get advice from them,” Meyer said. “This year (on Quandary Peak), some of the girls went ahead of us, and when we caught up to them, they said, ‘Can we just turn around?’ I said, “Let’s all go to the top together and listen to music.’ One of the moms had music on her iPhone or whatever, and faster songs get you more pumped.”

This month’s climb up Quandary Peak also was a fundraiser that brought in $1,270 for the local group’s scholarship fund. It’s important to keep Girls on the Run affordable for families, and each participant is subsidized by at least $50, Olson said.

“You don’t have to raise much money to make a difference,” she added. This summer’s sponsors included Walmart, City Market, Natural Grocers, the Olson Team at Prudential Steamboat Realty and Alpine Bank, which came up with prizes and products to motivate the girls’ fundraising efforts.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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