Here is the original article on the Sun City Harriers from last year. We are looking forward to the 2014 season:
Erik Mickelson counts down to a group of young runners who are leaning forward and eager to take off on their next quarter-mile loop around orange cones in a field in the north end of Yakima’s Kissel Park.
And they’re off.
Nearby, Erik’s wife, Aleah, reads off times as different groups finish and recover before the next loop. Coaches and parents offer encouragement.
All around, kids run, catch their breath, talk, laugh and smile.
It’s a Tuesday afternoon at a Sun City Harriers practice — cross-country for kids.
About 50 runners make up the team, with an age range from 4 to 16. The Mickelsons formed the team this fall after finding out there was nothing like it in Yakima.
“Sometimes, if it doesn’t exist and you’re passionate about something,” you go ahead and do it yourself, Erik said. He and his wife are lifelong runners and were successful on their high school teams — Erik at Newport in Bellevue and Aleah (then Aleah Thome) at Eisenhower. Both went on to run at the University of Washington, where they met in 1997. They have four children, Kara, 10, Mary, 8, Kate, 6, and Nils, 1. All but Nils compete on the team, but he most likely will in time.
Lindy Kollman’s daughters Anabelle, 8, and Maisy, 5, run on the team. From a seat on a picnic table near where the runners practice, Kollman watches the group work out.
“I just love to see them running and smiling and getting their exercise,” Kollman said. “Learning to be outside and get their bodies healthy.”
Erik Mickelson said he’s seen big gains from the runners in the three weeks they’ve been practicing, and the team has had some success: The boys’ team placed first in the third- through sixth-grade division at the Sunfair Invitational. The girls’ team placed third. But it’s not all about winning, or even racing.
While the club’s affiliation with USA Track & Field gives runners a chance to compete at sanctioned regional and national competitions, some aren’t interested and turn out just for the fun. Mickelson is fine with both ends of the spectrum, and everything in between.
“I just want to see kids grow up loving to run,” he said.
Practices and races continue through November. No experience is required and runners can join anytime throughout the season. The cost is $25, which includes a shirt. And, of course, they have a Facebook page.