Cannon School senior Stephanie Schauder may have had her best run of the season when she finished second at the private/independent schools 3A state championship meet Oct. 30.
But on Friday, Schauder will lead the pack in the most meaningful run of her life.
She and Tim Gruber, a fellow cross country runner at Cannon School, organized the Cannon Runs for Cancer Research (CR2), a charitable event to raise money for Schauder's Relay for Life team.
Schauder founded the Cougars Fighting Cancer team two years ago, shortly after her father, Craig Schauder, succumbed to pancreatic cancer at age 49.
The 12-mile run will begin at Presbyterian Hospital-Huntersville and will end at Cannon School in Concord. The private school's administration and student body have thrown their full support behind the effort, in which Schauder and Gruber hope to raise $12,000 for the American Cancer Society.
The two Huntersville residents concocted the idea during a casual run over the summer.
Gruber, who placed fifth at the state championships, thought it might be cool to run to school in Concord from Huntersville one day. Schauder recommended turning it into a fundraiser.
Her Relay for Life team, which has grown from 20 to 50 members, had already raised $7,000 the previous year by holding car washes and bake sales and by Christmas caroling.
Schauder and Gruber started laying plans for the CR2 in August. Todd Hartung, Cannon's director of advancement, said the two seniors approached school officials, solicited business sponsors and even made the first contacts to arrange for runners to have a police escort.
A $20 fee will register you to run, or at least collect a race T-shirt, designed by - you guessed it - Schauder and Gruber.
"It's been exciting seeing a small idea grow into a masterpiece," Gruber said Oct. 28. "It feels like yesterday we were just talking about a T-shirt design, and today there were 60 kids wearing them in school."
Runners can participate in one of four ways. Those running the full 12 miles will meet another group at a grocery store at Poplar Tent and Harris roads; the two groups will complete the final five miles together.
On the Cannon campus, there will be an additional 5K run, and a Fun Run for lower-school students.
All participants will make their final strides up Education Way, the drive leading from Poplar Tent Road to Cannon's campus. Dave Wottle, a 1972 Olympic gold medal winner in the 800 meters and an acquaintance of Gruber's father, will be the guest speaker as the event concludes in the school's gym.
School administrators agreed to dismiss students early so they could make the 11 a.m. start time in Huntersville.
As of Monday, Schauder and Gruber said they had raised about half their $12,000 goal.
Schauder, who has attended Cannon School since kindergarten, says she got her running bug during her elementary years from her father, who liked to participate in charitable 5K runs.
"When I was younger, (running) was just something I did because he told me to," she said. "I really started to enjoy it as I got older. Then it was me telling him to come running, when I started getting stressed."
Schauder's sister, Caroline, a seventh-grader at Cannon, and their mother, Nancy Astle, will also participate in the CR2.
Stephanie Schauder said, "I know that if (my dad) was here, this is something he would want me to do."
For more information, visit the Cougars Fighting Cancer website at http://main.acsev