solethumbDozens of 7th- and 8th-graders showed up last week to try out for the 2009 Big Bear Middle School cross country running team. Little did they know it was actually the first week of practice! No one was turned away: A mile under ten minutes earns a place in the group that runs off campus, but any student with adequate grades gets to run on the track.

Coach Tracy Tokunaga has been the cross-country coach for seven years, and she wants to make sure that any student who wants to participate can. Families who can’t afford proper running shoes may be able to use one of the donated pairs in her classroom. And she’s always seeking new donations of lightly used running shoes.

Through Tokunaga’s networking and parent involvement, the team has received some excellent support from outside the school.  This year SOLE (the longtime sponsor of local Adventure Racers, Team SOLE) has agreed to sponsor the team.  SOLE will provide a pair of custom footbeds to the top five girls and boys on the team, and they will also provide a pair of SOLE technical socks to each member of the team.  Hammer Nutrition is also a partner and provides low sugar electrolyte drinks for the team at their meets.  Both of these companies say they are proud to support the team and these young adults who are role models in their school and in the community for running and adopting a healthy lifestyle.

Coach Tokunaga says, “In this tough financial time, it’s great to have outside support and we’re grateful for the products we receive, every little bit helps. I make sure the kids get out and run, but the team is the result of many individuals who bring their own expertise and come together to support these kids…that’s how it all happens”.

Because Tokunaga also encourages parental support, every day there are several parents running on the track and the trails with the kids. “The more eyes the better,” says Tracy “especially when we run off campus on the trails.”  “I couldn’t have this many kids on the team if I didn’t have the extra help,” she adds.

BBMS has a home meet on September 3rd; the public is invited to go cheer on the team!