Elementary school running club hitting its stride in Shelton

SHELTON — The Booth Hill School running club is really hitting its stride. 

The club — formed some eight years ago by physical education teacher Nicole Swercewski — started with a mere 30 members, all second through fourth graders. Interest had grown every year until the pandemic – which put a halt to the club, which meets twice a week before school in the fall and spring. 

Booth Hill School restarted the club last spring, and it has exploded to more than 100 participants. 

“It is good exercise,” said fourth grader Ariana Roben. “It is a lot of fun, and I get to be with my friends. It is a good time to get exercise before school starts. It helps wake me up.” 

Swercewski, a teacher at Booth Hill School for more than two decades, said she started the club as a way for students to get some exercise and get them focused before school. 

“I like to keep our students active. They really enjoy it,” she said. “I never expected this to grow this much.” 

“(The school days) start late, and the kids are up early,” she added. “This is an opportunity to run and get physical. The best part is the camaraderie. The kids aren’t competitive. They are working together to reach a goal.” 

Principal Dina Marks said students are separated into teams. Each team is responsible for logging its runners' mileage, then adding it up and posting the results. The students run around the school building, with four circuits equaling one mile. 

Roben said she loves the club because it has helped her run faster when she plays soccer and her legs stronger for gymnastics routines. 

Third grader Evan Hayes, an avid athlete with participates in soccer, basketball and Tae Kwon Do, joined the club to help improve his play. 

“It’s fun to me. It just feels fun,” said Hayes, who, Swercewski says, runs about a mile and a half every session. “Running like this helps me play better and go faster. I also like being with my friends in the morning.” 

Marks said the highest-ranking running team tallied more than 70 miles this past fall. 

She said that the school pushes to keep the students active, so the running club tied right into the Kid’s Heart Challenge. The challenge, for the American Heart Association, called on kids to make healthy choices or being physically active. That was a perfect fit for the running club members. 

In the end, Marks said the school raised $21,000 for the American Heart Association. 

“Some of these kids run like gazelles,” Marks said. 

Staying active while learning remains a key component to the school curriculum, even as the fall running season ended last month.  

Earlier this month, Swercewski created a program for students, who walked around the outside of the school, stopping at several signs in the ground with true-and-false questions and information about diabetes. 

“We want to get and keep these kids moving,” said Swercewski. “And this club is a good promotion for exercise.”