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As summer begins to wind down, the Greater Williamsburg Distance Running Club is preparing to kick off its second fall cross-country session.
The club begins practice Sept. 3.
Mark Tompkins, Bruton’s cross-country and track coach, founded the club last year in the hopes of generating excitement in distance running among younger athletes between third and 12th grade in the Historic Triangle.
With one fall cross-country session under his belt, Tompkins is hoping to learn from last year’s inaugural program and keep the momentum heading into this year.
Last year’s club saw roughly 30 kids, 90 percent of whom Tompkins estimated came from Williamsburg and York County, partake in practices and, for more motivated runners, races.
Six Greater Williamsburg Distance Running Club athletes went so far as to compete in the Junior Olympic Cross Country National Championship in December.
While Tompkins is pleased to have sent some of his young runners to a national meet, he does not want prospective participants to think his club is for aspiring elite-level runners. Rather, Tompkins simply hopes to get more young people into distance running regardless of skill set.
“It’s just to get kids interested running and to help promote running at the middle school level and eventually the high school level,” he said. “A lot of times you have kids that are talented in running, but they just aren’t exposed to it. It’s a place where kids can work on fitness. It exposes kids to the benefit of cross country and track.”
The club’s practices, which are held at New Quarter Park “eight or nine times” per season, are broken up into age groups in an attempt to keep runners grouped into similar skill levels.
When the kids are not participating in more traditional running practices, Tompkins likes to keep things fresh and engaging by implementing “fun runs.” In the past, these practices have included games like ultimate Frisbee, relay races and other games that keep kids moving.
The USA Track and Field sanctioned club is also affordable for participants. At a minimum, participating in the fall session will cost $30 and includes a yearlong membership to USA Track and Field. The spring session can be added for an additional $10.
If kids want to race, they can do so by purchasing a Greater Williamsburg Distance Running Club jersey for $16.
“If a kid does it year-round and buys a T-shirt or race jersey, it’s about $56,” Tompkins said.
For more information about the Greater Williamsburg Distance Running Club, click here.