Daily Reporter Staff Writer

NEW PALESTINE — It’s hard to get some kids to remain active during the summer when most like to kick back and relax while on break.

That, however, was not the case for a group of young girls from New Palestine led by Doe Creek Middle School running coach Marcia Sams.

Sams and the girls have been using their feet to get fleet all summer long. The Sole Sisters, a name they’ve adopted to describe the group’s purpose, met twice a week these past few months to stay in shape, learn running skills and build friendships in fitness.

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So far the idea has grown legs.

Sams, the cross-country and track coach at Doe Creek, came up with the concept to help her young daughter, Lydia, 10, who likes to play soccer. In an effort to keep Lydia and her friends in soccer shape during the summer, Sams turned offseason conditioning into the Sole Sisters running club, a fun way to stay active.

Sams started working with Lydia and several local elementary and middle school girls when school ended. They ran all summer long until school started this week, welcoming newcomers with every step.

“We talk about healthy eating habits and about exercising not just here and there, but all the time,” Sams said.

The past couple of weeks, they had 10 to 15 girls consistently show up and become a permanent part of the running club. Sams said the group’s popularity grew so immensely, she hopes to work with the middle school girls this winter to build on their inaugural run.

“It will probably be too cold out to run with the younger girls, but I’d like to try with the middle school kids,” Sams said.

Middle school runner Elizabeth Gauthier said the twice-a-week running sessions helped deepen her respect for the sport and the work involved to become her best.

“Something about me just loves running and staying fit,” Elizabeth said. “When I get back into the school year for cross-country I will not be out of practice.”

Her mother, Marilyn Vazquez, like many of the other girls’ moms, joined her daughter and began running and working out with the group. She said it’s been a great way for the girls to spend their summer bonding.

“I feel like as the kids get older there is less stuff for them to do in the summer, so when the coach put this together it gave them a chance to all get together and have something fun to do,” she said.

Vazquez said it was great to have some positive structure put into the summer months.

“They get to exercise two times a week and in my daughter’s case she has met some girls that she will be going to the middle school with,” she said.

Sam started running when she was a young girl and ran all the way through high school at Indianapolis Arsenal Tech and is still committed to running in her adult life.

She hopes getting the young girls involved in running now will set them on the right path to one day being part of the high school team.

New Palestine Elementary school fifth-grader Maddy Potter has been a part of the Dragon Flyers running club, a running group for elementary-aged kids, but wanted to expand her running skills even more.

The Sole Sisters provided her the opportunity.

“I learned a lot about sprinting,” Maddy said. “I wasn’t very good at it before this, but I learned a lot about technique.”

While the sessions were designed for fun, New Palestine Elementary school’s Emma Mann, a long-time runner, said she took the sessions for a chance to be competitive.

The group atmosphere fit her needs perfectly.

“I’m intense,” Emma said with a laugh.

The girls met for the running sessions at Southeastway Regional Park, a rather hilly area that challenged them during endurance runs and sprint sessions.

“It’s buggy and hilly,” Maddy said.

“It makes them work a little bit harder,” Sams added with wink and a smile.

The girls didn’t seem to mind too much and several are eager to keep the group going.

Kristy Deer is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3262 or kdeer@greenfieldreporter.com.