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Suffolk Superstars shine in 5K race

Thirteen empowered by Girls on the Run program

With COVID-19 precautions in place, the 13 members of the Suffolk Superstars participated in a Girls on the Run event on Dec. 12.

The start and finish line was a balloon arch in the parking lot at Pioneer Elementary School. The activity was the second of two in Western Tidewater that Saturday; the earlier one happened at the community center in Franklin.

For many girls, such as Julia Winslow and Emiri Lawrence, it was their first race and a fun time, and several said they would do it again; others like Dakota Molter would wait and see before signing up for the spring program.

Girls on the Run, according to its website, is a national nonprofit that develops positive qualities of self-confidence, connection, character and caring in girls on the elementary and middle school levels through physical activities such as running 5K races.

The program is a campaign that began in 1996 in Charlotte, N.C., also with 13 girls, and it grew in participation and locations from there each year. By 2000, the nonprofit had gone international. The Hampton Roads Council, one of seven in Virginia, is led by Ellen Carver. The Hampton Roads Council has 34 smaller groups. Suffolk began its Girls on the Run five years ago and now has 12 participating sites. The organization is also reaching into Southampton and Isle of Wight counties as well as Franklin. For this growth, she credits the Obici Healthcare Foundation, which has largely funded the program.

“In a normal season, there would be a single race that brings all those little teams together and might include as many as 2,000 people,” she said. “Because of the pandemic, we did site-based 5Ks.”

That is a plus in Carver’s view.

“There are a lot of benefits [to having smaller races]. It’s more intimate, less intimidating and promotes team-building,” she said, and added the next will be in May.

Helping to build teams locally is program director Ali Reynolds of Suffolk. She started recruiting and training in September. Previous to joining the regional organization in February, she had been in the museum industry, and decided on a career change to empower girls and women. Reynolds said she found that in Girls on the Run, which is the national philanthropic focus of her sorority, Gamma Phi Beta.

The Suffolk Superstars were Lily Atkinson, Rowan Chadbourne, Alayna Hawkins, Jazlyn Krach, Emiri Lawrence, Emma Macon, Reagan Midowski, Dakota Molter, Olivia Sidwell, Sara Terrillion, Julia Winslow, Molly Winslow and Aubree Yenny.

The local event was the last in the season for the HRC, but Carver was anything but exhausted from all the preparations and cheering.

“It was energizing,” she said. “Not exhausting at all!”

To find out more about GOTR, call 757-965-9040 or visit www.girlsontherun.org.

Editor’s Note: This version corrects the omission of a name from the list of runners.