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Run for the regional

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Eastview fourth-grader Myleigh Perry navigates the course at the Seymour Classic event in Seymour, Ind. last weekend. Perry will run in the race for 9-10 year olds, Saturday at the USATF Indiana Association Junior Olympic Championships. She is one of nine runnersfrom the Fayette County Running Club who will compete at the event in Nashville, Ind.
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St. Gabriel first-grader Graham Pflum approaches the finish line at the Seymour Classic last weekend. On Saturday, Pflum will run in the 8-an-under race at the USATF Indiana Association Junior Olympic Championships in Nashville, Ind. Photos contributed
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Connersville runners Jacob Richardson and Charlotte Pflum leave the starting line at the Seymour Classic last weekend in Seymour, Ind. The twolocal competitors were champions at the Fayette County cross country meet on Saturday, Sept. 9. Both will be running at the USATF Indiana Association Junior Olympic Championships in Nashville, Ind.

By GRADY TATE - gtate@newsexaminer.com

On a sunny September afternoon, 166 local youths accepted the challenge to navigate a cross country course laid out for them at Roberts Park.

In the weeks since, several of the competitors that placed their toes on the line that day have simply kept on running.

Seeking faster times on courses in Eaton (Ohio), Columbus, Ind., and Seymour, Ind., those local runners have continued to seek improved skills and faster times.

On Saturday, nine of them will represent the Fayette County Running Club at the United States of America Track and Field (USATF) Indiana Association Junior Olympic Championships. The event will be held at Eagle Park in Brown County, Ind. (Nashville, Ind.).

Participating on behalf of the local club will be Connersville High School sophomore Adam Arndt, and elementary runners Robby House (1st grade, St. Gabriel), Charlotte Latham (6th grade, St. Gabriel), Myleigh Perry (4th grade, Eastview), Graham Pflum (1st grade, St. Gabriel), Jacob Richardson (6th grade, St. Gabriel), Alexandria Wren (6th grade, Maplewood), Drew Wright (5th grade, Everton) and Eli Wright (3rd grade, Everton).

Arndt will be the first leaving the starting line, his 5K event scheduled for a 10 a.m. start.

Graham Pflum, Eli Wright and House will follow in the 8-and-under race (2K), set for a 10:45 a.m. start.

Perry will then run in the race for 9-10 year olds (3K), beginning at 11 a.m. Less than 30 minutes after her race (11:25 a.m.), Drew Wright will begin his 3K run for the 9-10 year-old boys.

Running in the race for 11-12-year-old girls, 3K competitors Latham and Wren will be next, listening for the starter’s pistol to send them on their way at 11:50 a.m.

Jacob Richardson will close out the day for the local running club, dashing off his 3K starting line at 12:15 p.m. Richardson has one more race under his belt than those of his teammates, as he also lists a USATF event at Noblesville on his 2018 resume.

In each race, competitors will be seeking a top-30 finish, as that will qualify them to advance to the USATF regional at DeKalb, Ill. on Saturday, Nov. 17.

Two of Saturday’s participants have already experienced the joy of moving on.

Along with Caroline Arndt, both Adam Arndt and Perry not only reached the regional race last year, but took it a step further, advancing to the national meet in Florida.

Caroline Arndt won’t be competing this time, but she is still stepping up for the team, as she will address the runners at practice on Thursday afternoon, helping to send them off with some inspiration.

But, while the Connersville High School senior won’t be making the trip to the regional this year, FCRC coach Kelli House believes that both Adam Arndt and Perry could be joined at the next level by several of their other teammates this time around.

“When we first looked at this, we could see that the older kids were in prime position to fight for some of those spots,” she said. “But looking at how well some of the younger kids like Graham Pflum are running, there is a real possibility for them to move on as well.”

House added that there could be as many as 75 or more runners in each age group, so nothing was going to come easy for any of her runners.

“It’s going to take a very solid race by all of them,” she said.

In the weeks since that first event at Roberts Park on Sept. 29, however, House says that she’s seen the potential for all of her young charges to turn in just such an effort.

“When we ran that first race at home, some of these runners were like big fish in a small pond,” she said. “But when we took the kids to runs elsewhere, it was intimidating, as they encountered others that had been running for years. Some of them were terrified at that first run at Eaton.

“Since then, however, they’ve gotten over that for the most part. With each run, they are gaining confidence and learning how to approach races.”

Asking questions and absorbing the answers have become keys to their development from one week to the next, House added.

“They’re asking the right questions now, things like, where do I begin my kick, or where do I need to be at the start of the race? As a result, their strategy has improved each week,” she said.

The right answers to those questions might very well produce some very big results on Saturday.

NOTE: The Fayette County Running Club is for boys and girls ages 2-12. Whether it’s introducing a pre-school athlete to the sport of running or help athletes to stay fit and prepare for competition, those interested should contact Kelli House at 765-265-1061.