Slightly out of breath but feeling like he's on top of the world, Jerell Lock pauses as he goes around the track at Overholser Elementary School Thursday morning to have his hand marked.
The significance of the mark is one lap around the track at the Putnam City elementary school. Eight laps equal a mile. Lock is a participant in the Putnam City Schools-Schwab's 100 Mile Program. Students are challenged to run or walk 100 miles by the end of the school year.
“I like to run because it's fun,” he said. “And it makes people healthier. I also like to eat a lot of apples and they give me energy.”
This is the third year the program has been in place at Overholser. Most Putnam City elementary schools have followed suit. The goal is physical fitness, but there are also benefits in the classroom.
“The students come in more focused,” Principal Marjorie Iven said. “They get their yahoos out on the track and are ready to learn.”
Physical education teacher Angela Stogsdill said the first year of the program no students made it to 100. Last year four made it. She expects more this school year.
“I think now that they know what the program is and how it works, we'll see an increase in kids that make it,” she said.
Kids run before school, usually starting about 7:30 a.m. until the first bell rings at 8:25. Students get recognized for every five miles they run with a charm that can be put on a necklace. Those who make the 100-mile mark are rewarded with a field trip. Last year it was a swimming day, this year it will be laser tag.
But the benefits go well beyond charms and field trips. It's about building friendships and starting the day off right.
“I like to walk so that's what I do,” fifth-grader Camrynn Sands said. “It makes me feel good but I also like it because I can talk to my friends while we walk around the track.”
Fifth-grader Jayden Welch said it's a habit that will stick with him.
“I like to run a lot and I want to keep doing it until I get old because it makes me feel good,” he said.