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Girls on the Run program readies girls for a lifetime of health, confidence

It may say “Girls on the Run” on their T-shirts, but these girls from North Star Elementary School know this is about much more than the running.

“It’s mostly the fun. … Making new friends, learning how to meet goals, being there for each other,” says Kendal Stohl, a 10-year-old who is in the second year in girls on the run at North Star. The North Star team is one of seven in Girls on the Run Rio Grande and serves about 100 girls in 3rd to 5th grade in Bernalillo and Valencia Counties.

Girls on the Run is a national program of empowerment for pre-adolescent girls. According to the organization’s website, the program uses “age-appropriate lessons encourage positive emotional, social, mental and physical development while the physical activity woven into the program inspires an appreciation of fitness and building habits that lead to a lifetime of health.”

Rhonda Cox, head coach at North Star, said she became aware of the program when the first team started in 2012.

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Head Coach Rhonda Cox high fives members of the North Star Elementary Girls on the Run as they complete a 5K run. Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal

“I’m a nurse, and I come to it from a public health standpoint,” she said. “If we can not only get these girls moving early, but pair that with confidence-building as they enter middle school, it will make a big difference in their lives.”

And make a difference, it can.

Margeaux Peters, Stohl’s mom and a volunteer coach at the North Star program, says she’s seen a change in her daughter through the program.

“This (the running paired with the life lessons) is right up her alley,” she said. “Kendal likes the social part and this is such a positive atmosphere.”

On a recent Monday, the North Star team was doing a “practice 5K” in advance of the annual 5K run at Mesa del Sol on Saturday. The event is a fundraiser for the groups.

On the first 80-degree day in some time, the girls completed more than 30 laps around the school field to go the distance.

Red-faced and panting, Isabella Counsil and Eden Williams, both fourth-graders, approached the reporter taking notes: “Do you want us to talk about the program?” Counsil asked.

“The best part about this is the positivity,” she said. “Sportsmanship … friendship … the encouragement to do the lessons every day.”

And what about goals for the running?

“To jog and run the whole thing and not walk,” Williams said.

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