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Willie Fit finishes seventh season with half marathon

36 WHS students complete Helvetia Half Marathon June 7


If there’s one thing that, on the surface, sounds less appealing to a typical high-school student than an early morning run every Saturday for months, it might just be running in a half marathon.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Willie Fit runner Marilyn Maldonado looks relexed and ready as she prepares for the Helvetia Half Marathon June 7. The fact that the students in Willie Fit, a Wilsonville High School running club, not only participate in both of those activities but also enjoy doing so, speaks volumes. Thirty-six Willie Fit athletes completed the Helvetia Half Marathon June 7.

Willie Fit runners are not all typical athletes. Although some of them have tried team sports, including track and field, many others have not. For these participants, the club provides their introduction to running.

It’s not all about the rubber meeting the road, though. Willie Fit adviser Lyndi Tucker said that for many of her runners, Willie Fit provides their first experience in setting and achieving a goal — and feeling the sense of pride and accomplishment that comes from stretching to reach it.

In the beginning, said Amanda Quesada, she hated running. But Quesada participated in Willie Fit this year as a high-school junior, and she’s planning to join the club again in her senior year.

“Something about Willie Fit keeps me coming back,” she said. “It was not my thing. I had tried track before. I didn’t really care for the running in circles with no purpose.”

Teammate Marilyn Maldonado, a sophomore in 2013-14, joined the club as a freshman.

“I was so excited that I was in my first year of high school. I wanted to be in a club,” she recalled. “I could barely walk a mile in the beginning — I’m going to run 13.1 miles? I thought that was insane. I kept questioning myself, every mile.”by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Thirty-six student members of Willie Fit, a Wilsonville High School club, participated in Portland's Helvetia Half Marathon June 7.

When Tucker and her co-worker, WHS counselor Alyson Leatherman, designed the club seven years ago, they planned to prepare their runners to participate in Portland’s Helvetia Half-Marathon. And they knew that getting ready for that would require a steady, long-term plan.

Willie Fit begins in the late winter, when students and adult mentors get together for twice-weekly timed runs. They meet again on Saturdays, when they run for distance, adding one mile each week until they hit the 12-mile mark.

“You start out slow and build up,” Quesada said.

Some students run; others walk. The important thing is just to keep moving forward and building endurance.

“It’s a big challenge at first,” Maldonado said. “You’re never left behind. You’re always together.”

Mikayla Adams, a sophomore during the 2013-14 school year, is a Willie Fit walker.

“Walking, I can enjoy my friends,” she said.

Regardless of her speed, she said that she appreciates the opportunity to get active. Completing the half marathon was a triumph for her.

“It feels good because you completed a goal,” she said.

“It gives you confidence,” Maldonado said. “It makes you feel proud of something you did.”

“If I can do this, imagine what I can do,” Quesada said.

“This group of kids has been a joy to work with and have kept us laughing for four months,” Tucker said.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Armando Lopez, center, was the only four-year member of Willie Fit this year. A club participant every year of his high school career, he poses here with advisers Alyson Leatherman, left, and Lyndi Tucker after completing the Helvetia Half Marathon June 7.She was quick to acknowledge the support that makes the program possible. In exchange for free entries into the half marathon, Willie Fit provides adult volunteers on race day. The club received financial or material support this year from the city of Wilsonville, Portland Running Company, Oregon Road Runners and Providence Health Services, among others. Students pay no fees to participate in Willie Fit. A number of adult mentors and volunteers support the club over the course of its four-month season.

“We could not do what we do without all of these individuals. Thank you to those of you who have supported our athletes with encouraging words this year. They have appreciated it,” Tucker said. “And for those of you who would like to join us next year, we take all comers.”

“It’s really fun,” Quesada said. “A great way to get in shape together.”

“You’ll have a good time,” Maldonado said. “I guarantee you’ll have a good time.”

For more information about Willie Fit, contact Tucker at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


By Kate Hoots
Education reporter
503-636-1281, ext. 112
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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