All this summer, hundreds of kids and their parents have been watching one little runner on the track at the Apex Center in Arvada. Little Lily Schatz is the "star" among the mini-tracksters.
More than 10 years ago, the Blazers running group got their start with a few moms, their children and a few friends. Now, close to 450 children run in this program designed for kids ages 3 to 16. The moms that started it all are still coaching, along with a few of their own children who have graduated to the role of coach.
Jordan Marquez says he was about 6 when he started running with the Blazers.
"My son is now playing with the University of Colorado football team, and he attributes some of his skills in working out to track and the lessons he learned here," his mom, Cindi Marquez, added.
Another former runner who serves as coach, Cody Schatz, has two children participating. Her youngest, Lily, is the youngest in the 3 to 6-year-old group.
"It's never a challenge to bring her, she wants to come. She wants to be here. I think when parents see her and see how small she is, how little she is, they think to themselves if they have a younger child, that they could do this next year," Schatz said.
Within question, Lily is the one who garners the most attention, in part because she runs simply to run.
"It's so great to see the little kids, half the time they're running and they're waving to their parents in the stands. They're just so adorable and cute, but they run, they really take it seriously," Jennifer Dougherty, the program director, said.
In order to keep the little runners engaged, popsicles are handed out once a week and at the end of each session there is a game of tag (the sharks vs. the minnows) between the coaches and the kids.
Runners in the summer group can compete in six track meets around the metro area. This summer's session ends next week. The program expanded to morning and evening clubs this year because of the high enrollment.
Next year, even more runners are expected to sign up. Chances are Lily will still be one the smallest and most eager runner on the track.
For more information, visit www.apexblazers.com.
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