Students at Tilden Middle School in North Bethesda run a mile more than once each year during their physical education classes, but once a year — for 25 years — the entire student body gets together to celebrate running.
It’s called the Mile of Champions, and this year’s run was Friday on the school track.
“The event was created as a way to recognize kids who put out in the running program and to promote a healthy lifestyle,” said physical education teacher Glenn Young. “We saw the fitness of children going in the wrong direction.”
Young was one of the teachers who started the program a quarter-century ago. He said they students’ mile times are tracked throughout the year and the top 120 — 20 girls and 20 boys from each of the sixth, seventh and eighth grades — get to run before the whole student body in the annual race.
“The prize for the kids is the opportunity to come out and showcase what they have been working on all year,” Young said. “Everybody who runs is a winner.”
Six races were held, with 20 boys and 20 girls from each grade running at a time. The fastest boy was seventh-grader Gilad Weiss at 5 minutes, 34 seconds; he just nipped fellow seventh-grader Justin Bobb by a hundredth of a second. The fastest girl was seventh-grader Sierra Agarwal with 5:43.
As a sixth-grader last year, Sierra broke a longstanding girls record with a time of 5:41 and many thought she would top that this year.
She was clearly disappointed that she did not.
“I felt good,” she said. “But I was feeling a lot of pressure with everyone saying, ‘Are you going to break the record?’ I tried, but I was two seconds off.”
A mile, she said is “somewhat of a struggle” for her because she prefers longer distances, such as 2 or 3 miles.
As a community tradition, the Mile of Champions attracted many former students who came to cheer on the younger kids. Also on site were the track and cross-country coaches from Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, where most Tilden students will go.
“We’re here to encourage the kids to think about joining our cross-country team,” said Tom Martin, Walter Johnson’s head cross-country and track and field coach.
Cara Grant, Montgomery County Public Schools supervisor of health and physical education, also was at the race to support the program.
Obesity is a health problem across the county, she said, and physical education is a big factor in helping students learn to combat it.
“It’s really about teaching [the students] what they can do on their own time,” she said. “We call it physical literacy.”
Eighth-grader Jacob Sorensen has raced in the Mile of Champions all three years he has been at Tilden. He said he thinks it is a great event.
“I think it brings the school together. Everybody cheers for each other,” Jacob said. “That’s what it is, everybody supporting each other. It feels great to cross the finish line and have the whole school cheer for you.”