Published on March 22, 2021

Rivals on the course become community off of it

On the course, these runners are rivals. But during the off-season, they are training partners. Female runners from Lawrence High, Free State and Bishop Seabury make up one of the four classes of runners that train twice a week with the LMH RunStrong team to get stronger, faster and improve overall performance.

Zack Sanchez ONeill is one of the RunStrong coaches working with the team.

“The girls all come ready to work out every session,” he said. “You’d never tell they are rivals on the track based on their excellent attitudes when they’re training with us.”

Maddie DeWitt was one of the first girls to join the class when it was offered in winter 2019. She trained for three months following the fall cross-country season to prepare for the upcoming track season.

Campbell Helling, Emma Roman Nose and Hannah Motsinger perform a plank exercise

Campbell Helling, Emma Roman Nose and Hannah Motsinger perform a plank exercise

Unfortunately, the results of DeWitt’s hard work were stopped short when the 2020 season was canceled due to COVID-19. She was pleased that the RunStrong class was being offered again.

“I’ve been a part of the RunStrong program for two seasons now and the level of improvement that I have seen is extreme,” she said. “It’s helped improve my time and achieve a new personal best.”

Structured workouts provide education and motivation

Runners also benefit from the opportunity to participate in structured workouts during the off-season. Students attending smaller schools may not have the same training opportunities on campus.

“Our school doesn’t have a weights program,” said Darby Harris, a junior runner from Bishop Seabury. “It can be intimidating and unsafe to learn how to train in a gym setting, but I’ve enjoyed learning how to train with RunStrong.”

Maura Shire, senior runner from Free State High School, was part of the first running group in 2019.

“Participating in RunStrong has motivated me to keep working out during the off-season,” she said. “It is so fun to be a part of a community sport and see these girls on the course.”

Isabelle Klish, who runs for Bishop Seabury, enjoys training with runners that she wouldn’t ordinarily get to. Now these girls refer to themselves as a “running community.”

“I love training with other schools. I go to a small school and it feels great being a part of a bigger community,” she said.

Increasing confidence for the runners is another benefit for the RunStrong participants.  Former Bishop Seabury student Isabelle Pro, who now attends Free State, joined the training classes following cross-country season.

“RunStrong is the best training other than running that I have done so far,” Pro said. “Not only am I more confident in myself, but I have enjoyed meeting new runners from different schools around Lawrence.”

Claire Wilson, Natalie Kenney, Emma Roman Nose and Isabelle Klisch perform a stride drill

Claire Wilson, Natalie Kennedy, Emma Roman Nose and Isabelle Klisch perform a stride drill

For many of these athletes, the upcoming track season will be a true test of their hard work in the off-season. Lauren Sinclair, senior runner at Free State, joined the RunStrong team in October 2019 and also had her track season cut short due to COVID. She looks forward to her senior year of competition and appreciates the opportunity to have the support of the running community that she has been a part of for the past year.

“Last year would have been a good year,” Sinclair said, reflecting on the work that she had done to prepare. “It will be so nice to have familiar faces in the crowd cheering you on, especially at the large meets.”

Natalie Kennedy, a sophomore runner from Lawrence High, looks forward to seeing her RunStrong classmates in competition.

“I look forward to seeing these girls on the track. It will be cool to not only know them as an athlete but also to know them personally,” she said.

DeWitt shares Kennedy’s excitement as she looks ahead to the 2021 track season.

“Although we didn’t get to compete last year with COVID, the bond built between the girls from different schools is so much fun and inviting,” she said. “It’s always nice to see someone you know on the starting line with you, and it will be exciting to be able to race against them and cheer them on when they finish.”


About the author

Nami Stone is a physical therapist with LMH Health Therapy Services.


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Call 785-505-5840 or email runstrong@lmh.org.