Danielle Dunn likes to run.
Whether it's in her backyard or through her Concord neighborhood, the 12-year-old runs at least a mile just about every evening, she said. Sometimes her dad builds makeshift hurdles and places them throughout the half-acre lot to make the run more challenging.
Thanks to the Greater Cabarrus Athletic Association, Danielle now can share her hobby with others.
Operating under the direction of the Cabarrus County Home School Association, the GCAA is offering a running club for the first time.
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Danielle was one of 10 members at the club's kickoff meeting Aug. 28 at Cabarrus County's Frank Liske Park. Coach Steve Bruggeling said about a dozen more students have expressed interest.
GCAA President Rosa Mitchke said the organization offers seven competitive sports. She hopes the running club can develop into a competitive cross country team as early as next year.
A variety of goals
With three sons ages 7 to 13, Bruggeling's wife, Leslie, suggested the idea of the running club. All three boys - Braeden, 13, Nolan, 10, and Jennings, 7 - have fared well in their age groups in several local fun runs over the past three years.
An experienced marathoner and 5-kilometer runner, Steve Bruggeling offered to organize the club and coach its runners.
The 10 initial runners showed up with a variety of agendas. Georgia Rowe, 9, of Harrisburg and the Bruggeling brothers all have running experience and are looking to expand their opportunities.
Harrisburg resident Matthew Dorrity, 11, just wants to get in some good exercise, as does Bailey Fowler, 14, of Mount Pleasant, who also hopes to compete on a cross country or track-and-field team one day. Bailey's brother Max, 10, simply wants to get in better shape for his main sport: football.
A good first day
Because the home school association is a Christian-based organization, Steve Bruggeling opened the first practice with a Bible verse that encouraged "running with patience and endurance." Participants needed both qualities as Bruggeling led them through introductory warm-up drills before a 0.6-mile run.
"We're going to get sweaty," he told them, "and we're going to get stinky."
As midmorning fishermen looked on with curiosity, Bruggeling led the group around the park's lake. Georgia, one of the younger runners, backed off the pace of the rest of the group but had her trusted running partner - her father, Tim - beside her.
"My dad keeps me occupied," Georgia said. "Sometimes I get cramps, and he just starts talking to me and it makes it feel better."
Experienced at running between 11/2 and 21/2 miles a day twice a week, Georgia didn't have to worry about cramps during the group's short opening run.
Danielle, Nolan and Max distanced themselves from the rest of the pack and finished first. The others finished at their own paces, some having to catch their breath more often than others.
Bruggeling wrapped up the opening session with some recommendations for a healthy runner's diet. All the runners had had a good head start that day, answering that their nutritious breakfasts included grain cereals or bagels.
The group will meet a few times a week, Bruggeling said, as he instructs them on types of runs and workouts. His plan is for each runner to develop his or her own running schedule and style, depending upon their interest and ability.
"We just want to break everybody in gradually," he said.