The race is on to encourage Madison County students to become more active.

Created as part of the Coordinated School Health and PE 4 Life Program, the Madison County Triple Crown consists of a series of races designed to jump-start physical fitness among local students and their families.

The Triple Crown begins Saturday with the Spoonbread Festival 5K, continues on Oct. 9 at the Pattie A. Clay Starlight Mile and finishes on Oct. 24 with the Madison County Schools Pumpkin Run/Walk.

All the events offer participants an opportunity to walk or run.

“This is one way, district wide, we can encourage students to be physically active,” said Pam Hogge, administrative assistant to Tommy Floyd, Madison County School Superintendent.

Madison County Schools and Pattie A. Clay Regional Medical Center already have been working together with the Coordinated School Health Council to find ways to increase athletic opportunities for students, but they wanted to find new ways to inspire the county’s youth to become more active.

“Pattie A. Clay Regional Medical Center and Madison County Schools share a vision of a healthier community,” said Erin Stewart, community education director for Madison County Schools. “The district recognizes that helping children develop healthy habits early in their life can lead to a healthier life in the long run.”

Race organizers from Madison County Schools and Pattie A. Clay got together to discuss ways to increase the number of young participants.

“We were talking about how there were races in the fall to promote fitness for students and families,” said Jill Williams, director of marketing and public relations at Pattie A Clay, who added that the medical center’s Starlight Mile didn’t seem to have many kids among its participants.

In order to beef up student participation, the sponsors decided to award prizes to participants, including cash prizes for the schools to use as part of their wellness programs.

At the Pumpkin Run, any competitor can sign up for the school they want to represent, and the school with the most participants will receive $600 to use in their wellness program.

Also, Pattie A. Clay will award the school with the most total participants in the three events $1,000.

The winning school also receives the Caudill Cup, a traveling cup honoring late superintendent Mike Caudill.

“Superintendent Caudill was an advocate of a healthier community and was a supporter of the Coordinated School Health Council even before it was titled as such,” said Stewart, who added that the Caudill family supplied the trophy for the event.

The school that wins the trophy will keep it for the year, and be able to defend it during the next Triple Crown.

The location of the events was another important factor in organizing the Triple Crown.

“We talked, and we realized, let’s have an activity in Berea, one in Richmond and one at the battlefield in the middle,” Williams said. “It’s only three weekends, but it gives kids and their families an opportunity to be active three different weekends. We feel if they’re active three more weekends than last year, they’re better off.”

Shannon Johnson Elementary School and B. Michael Caudill Middle School already have been participating in a pilot program to increase physical fitness.

The Madison County Triple Crown is a way to get the rest of the schools involved in fitness activities, Hogge said.

“We anticipate that the Triple Crown will be an annual event,” Hogge said. “The partnership between the Madison County Schools, Pattie A. Clay and the Spoonbread Festival is what makes this possible.

“It gets all the community involved,” Hogge added. “The Richmond community, the Berea community, and all of Madison County.”

For the organizers, the most important factor is promoting health to Madison County youth and their families.

“The district simply wants to see our students and staff and their families spending time together in a beneficial way,” Stewart said. “It’s about a healthier lifestyle and that is what the district hopes people will receive from their participation.”

Tim Mandell can be reached at tmandell@richmondregister.com or 624-6696.

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