The cross-country program's second annual youth running camp strikes a chord with families

The highlight of the Veritas cross-country program's second annual Kids Running Camp was not the week-ending races on Friday morning, though they did go off without a hitch and enjoy cool and sunny weather at Jaquith Park.

For coach Ken McChesney, one new activity during the week epitomized what the camp is all about and demonstrated how it was able to grow and improve in year two. SETH GORDON - Alexander Aguilar leads a pack of runners during the 3,000-meter race that concluded the Veritas Kids Running Camp Friday at Jaquith Park.

Each day, McChesney and middle school coach Brittany Watillo taught a particular skill to campers and it was up to the high school runners, who served as camp counselors, to design activities that would reinforce those lessons of the day.

For this particular activity, four counselors spread out across the park and represented stations with an activity that must be completed in order, except that the campers did not know which numbers the counselors represented.

The four activities represented the four paces of running — jog, run, race and sprint — and the idea was that each team of four runners had to reach each counselor to figure out if they were the right number in the sequence and then they could run at the pace to the next counselor.

"It was fascinating," McChesney said. "They came up with strategies. The group that I was with, instead of everybody running to every station to find out, they sent one runner to each station," McChesney said. "Then the one runner found out who really was No. 1 and then told everybody else."

McChesney said he really appreciated the activity because it represented how this year's camp put the focus on collaboration.

"There weren't things where individual kids were trying to compete with each other," he said. "The groups were working with each other to get a better time and stuff like that."

Seniors Thaddeo Pia and Madison McChesney said they enjoyed that more responsibility was placed on the counselors at this year's camp.

"It was very fun, but it was also more stressful, so things were a little more rough at the beginning," Pia said. "But once we got on schedule, we were able to adapt pretty well. The coaches were giving us great support, so it went very smoothly this year."

The camp was for runners entering third through eighth grades and Madison McChesney said she especially enjoyed working with the youngest campers, who had the option of running an 800-meter or 1,600-meter race Friday, while older student chose between a the 1,600 and 3,000.

Both seniors agreed that they would have loved to have had access to a camp like this when they were younger and Pia said he thought it was interesting that some middle school students that attended last year had actually joined the high school team and were able to serve as counselors this year.

"It's a great group of kids," Pia said. "They're always so enthusiastic about running. And for me running is such a unique sport because it pumps out such quality people. It's the strangest thing because (those) who don't have character can't do this sport very well because you need determination and discipline. Otherwise you're not going to be able to do it very well and enjoy it."

The camp drew 27 participants, down just slightly from last year's camp, but the hope is that it will draw participants more broadly from around Newberg and beyond as it grows.

"We tried our best to advertise to other communities all around Newberg," Pia said. "Not too many showed up this time, but that's okay. There's still plenty of time to grow it more. We're trying to build a big running community."

Coach McChesney credited the high school students for doing a great job last week and said he received a lot of positive feedback from participants and parents.

"I thought that we had a lot of meaningful teaching moments throughout the camp," he said. "I felt as a group, the people leading it, we knew so much better this year what we were doing, so I feel like the teaching was able to go so much deeper. I had at least one or two parents tell me that each day their child would come home and show the things they learned that day. We had several kids who said they couldn't wait to get back the next day, so I felt like we really did provide something of value."

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