Little runners, big goals

Fishflies Running Club expands into more local elementary schools this year

By: April Lehmbeck | Grosse Pointe Times | Published June 22, 2011

 A group from the Grosse Pointe Fishflies Running Club met at Mason Elementary to practice early this week.

A group from the Grosse Pointe Fishflies Running Club met at Mason Elementary to practice early this week.

Photo by April Lehmbeck

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GROSSE POINTES — Miki Farah smiles with her 6-year-old toothless grin, and when she runs, her blond ponytail bounces along behind her while she speeds along as fast as her little legs will carry her.

Farah points out how she recently lost her top front teeth and that she loves to run. She’s apparently not alone in her love of running, as the Grosse Pointe Fishflies Running Club, which launched last year for elementary school children, has about 140 little runners and is growing.

Since a group of parents founded the club at Mason Elementary last year, the Fishflies have expanded to include a couple more of the Grosse Pointe elementary schools, with even more ready to get on board this fall.

“We’re about all skill levels, boys and girls, kindergarten to fifth-grade,” said Stephanie Stallings, co-founder of the Fishflies. “They seem to have a great time with it. It’s a lot of fun.”

The running club started in 2010 when some parents got together and realized that they had the same goal of starting a running club.

“There’s no venue for our kids to participate in running,” Stallings said earlier this week.

“We had an overwhelming response,” McStallings said of the first spring when the club launched at Mason Elementary.

This year, both Ferry and Poupard signed on, and there are about four more elementary schools that have expressed interest in starting in the fall.

“It’s a great way to encourage an active lifestyle and to spend time with the kids,”?said Eileen Reickert, Fishflies coordinator at Ferry Elementary. “Some of the children are so inspiring — they just love to run.”

With the catchy little motto of “We run like there’s no tomorrow” in honor of real fishflies who only live 24 hours, the children have T-shirts and are having their first meet with all three of the current schools participating on June 24.

The runners will participate in three events at the meet: a slightly more than one-mile distance run, a relay and a 40-yard dash.

“It’s very exciting,” Stallings said.

Then, they’ll launch their summer running program the following week. The children meet a couple of times each week to practice.

Children in the district who want to join in this summer don’t have to be in one of the three schools that are participating so far.

While the group takes running seriously, they also make sure it’s a whole lot of fun for the children who participate.

Ron Ballinger, one of the founders along with his wife Cathy, runs alongside the children as they do a long lap around some orange cones set up in the field at Mason, cheering the runners on with phrases like “All right, Natalie, go.”

When they’re done with a relay, he gives them some positive reinforcement.

“Good job, you guys,” he shouts. “You did awesome.”

It’s just part of what they emphasize with the group, which is fun and friends along with some healthy tips for the children and their families.

Divine McClendon, a fourth-grade Poupard student, said he likes participating in the Fishflies because “we get to run a lot.”

He’s making friends by participating, as well.

Sydney White, who will be in fifth-grade at Mason in the fall, said she also enjoys running and likes the club because “they cheer each other on.”

When the group practices, they don’t just do endless running. They also have a day where they do some drills that include running to catch a football or working with a soccer ball.

“You run in almost any sport you play,” Stallings said.

For those who want to cheer the kids on at their meet, the runners will meet up at 7 a.m. on June 24 at Lake Front Park, with events running from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.

For more information on the running club, visit their website at www.gpfishflies.com.

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