Local students take part in first annual “fun run” on Allan Bell Memorial Trail

By Sarah Greil

Tomahawk Leader Reporter

The air was crisp and cool, and although the sun was not able to break through the clouds, dozens of runners gathered at the entrance to the Allan Bell Memorial Trail to compete in a fun run on Thursday, Oct. 24. Students from 2nd to 5th grade were introduced to the sport of cross country by choosing to participate in the run.

With a distance of about six-tenths of a mile, the course began after school by the high school parking lot at the entrance to the Allan Bell Memorial Trail. They headed north on the straightway, where the old railroad tracks had been. Members of the high school cross country team were peppered along the trail, directing the runners up a hill and through the woods to make a loop that was completed with the boardwalk across a marsh. Then, on to the finish line they pushed, cheered on by family members and friends.

Leading the pack of 18 girls to the finish line was Anita Ziert, Alexis Palmer and Kenadie Gilbert. The 17 boys were led in by Brayden Lamer, Harman Hoffman and Derek Hernandez. Incidentally, the fastest time for each group was the same: 4 minutes and 53 seconds.

At the finish line, Bill Sparr and Gary Hoffman from the Tomahawk Historical Society were there to hand out drinks to the runners. Each runner also received a ribbon for finishing the course.

Sparr, who is on the Board of Directors for the Historical Society, came up with the idea for the run. He said that he was aware that teachers in the Tomahawk School District used the trail for classes or during the noon hour with students and wanted to get students outside as much as possible. He wanted to promote the trail in a way that will let people of all ages know that they are welcome to use the trail.

He approached Shirley Derleth, Tomahawk’s High School and Middle School physical education teacher, about his idea of having the fun run on the Allan Bell Memorial Trail. Also being the middle school assistant cross country coach, Derleth organized the run, with hopes that it would encourage some of the runners to pursue running at the middle school and high school level by joining the cross country team.

She said that she “hopes they enjoyed running on a very beautiful course and that they realize how important physical activity is to maintaining a healthy life.”

Before the run, Sparr gave a short speech to the runners, telling a little about the Allan Bell Memorial Trail. The trail was started in 2017 in memory of Allan Bell, who wrote Birch Bark Notes for the Tomahawk Leader for many years. He told the runners that Bell always liked to be outdoors and that he always wrote about the outdoors. He hopes that this event will encourage students to do something similar. He told the runners that they are making history here today because hopefully this is the “first annual” fun run on the trail.

Sparr’s vision was to not make the run competitive, giving placement ribbons or trophies, but he wanted to make it a “fun run.” He believes the first year was a success based on the hugs, smiles and encouragement he saw at the finish line.

In the future, he says he hopes to have the run earlier in the year, when the weather is better. He would also like to see middle school and high school students added to the runners. Perhaps he would even encourage adults in the community to come out and make it a walk/run to involve as many people as possible.

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