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Runnin’ with Rani: Lavakids rule 101

March 29, 2015 - 9:48am


With five sessions still remaining, the Lavakids How to Run 101 program is open and available to all middle school students interested in joining in on the fun. The clinics are free from 2:30 – 3:30 p.m. on Friday afternoons at Kealakehe Intermediate School on the following dates: April 10 & 17, May 1, 15, & 22. For more information contact Ellie Sumic at

It’s the middle of March, and a long way away from hanging holiday wreaths, wrapping stocking stuffers, and sipping on eggnog . But for twenty aspiring athletes waiting on the grassy fields of Kealakehe Intermediate School, it certainly felt like Christmas.

Dozens of new Newton Running shoes in varying sizes, colors, and styles poured out of boxes and onto the feet of eager middle school-aged students. Yet instead of thanking ol’ Saint Nick for delivering the top item on their wish list, their gratitude and exuberant smiles beamed toward the Lavakids team who has worked so hard on their behalf to introduce running as a fun and cool activity they can get hooked on.

Welcome to the Lavakids newest expansion: How to Run 101 program.

Beginning in January, the 10-week program provides free running clinics to children between the ages of 11-13 in an attempt to engage Big Island’s youth into healthier and more active lifestyles. Not only is learning basic running fundamentals the focal point of each session, nutrition education and benefits of stretching are also taught from invited guest speakers within the athletic community.

“The main goal for this program is to inspire kids to take control of their own health,” said Lavaman Waikoloa race director, Gerry Rott. “The middle school-aged children are the hardest hit as there are a lack of available activities and resources out there for them. With recent school budget cuts and age requirements, the 11-13 year olds are left out of team sports and even PE (physical education) classes in schools.”

After receiving a grant from the County of Hawaii last year, Rott now had plenty of ammunition and motivation to bring to life a long sought dream of expanding her Lavakid’s Initiative by forming more branded events for Keiki to look forward to on a year round basis.

“How to Run 101 is a pilot program and it seemed to be the easiest to put on,” Rott said. “Our main focus is trying to reach those kids that due to expenses and logistics aren’t able to get out there and be active. Doing a run clinic was our first idea as we were able to put it together quickly.”

Similar to Rott’s organization of the popular Lavaman Waikoloa Triathlon, tapping into her niche of partnering with community members came easy as the Kealakehe Waverider Triathlon Club jumped to the opportunity to be a part, of what will no doubt be, an on-going and successful program.

“With the Tri Club, I trade them free entry into Lavaman and in turn, they help at the Lavaman Warehouse as well as the Lavakids race, and become mentors for the kids of the 101 program,” she said. “It teaches them how to give back to the community and also teaches them how much labor goes into putting on an event.”

Rott was also able to hire Ellie Sumic, a licensed cycling instructor for PATH (People’s Advocacy for Trails Hawaii) and sales rep at Bike Works Beach &Sports, to be program director.

“I got involved with this back in December,” Sumic said. “Gerry wanted me to run the Lavakids program as it was a passion that she hasn’t been able to bring to fruition until now. I had worked with kids for 18-plus years at the hotels and I’ve always loved sports so it was a natural fit for me to take this position as the Lavakids Program Director.”

As Sumic eyed the group happily running along the perimeter of the field with their brightly colored Newton Running shoes, and then stopping to engage in a few running drills being instructed to them, she added;

“They are like sponges at this point. They pick up everything you teach them. So before they get into high school, we get to help develop these children that will become our future.”

The 10-week program will culminate with a fun 5K (3.1-mile) run on May 22, giving these students plenty of time to break in their new shoes and look forward to completing a distance they have never attempted before.

“It’s great to see them so motivated and so committed to this program,” said Waverider Tri Club advisor and Kealakehe High School math teacher, Kristin Old. “Today was exciting because everyone who started with us from the first session got brand new shoes from Newton Running. And it’s great to see the Tri Club’s participation and partnership with the Lavakids program. We have found that children at this age range are more receptive to learning when it comes from their peers, and in turn, it has been a great experience for Tri Club to give back by serving as mentors.”

Two 12-year old students, Melanie Uyeda and Alec Ankrum, were pointed out by Sumic to have shown the most improvement and commitment throughout the first five weeks.

“Just being able to run and have people help teach us about our form and how to stay fit is what I like most about this program,” Uyeda said. “I play tennis and it will help me to keep in shape for it. There’s also a 5K at the end of this and I want to be able to get a good time.”

Uyeda added that although no one in her family is a runner, she often shares what she has learned during dinnertime.

“I like how people come to teach us how to stretch and eat healthier,” she said. “I think I will probably continue running on my own after this is all done.”

Ankrum on the other hand, comes from a family highly active in the racing scene. Ankrum’s father, Adam, is an accomplished triathlete and runner; his mother Laura is also an avid runner; his younger brother, Aiden (10), is a fast age-group swimmer; and his littlest brother, Archer (7), seems to have interest in all of the above.

“I love running,” Ankrum said. “It’s the one thing I enjoy doing and something that I want to become good at. I love my new running shoes!”

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