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Olympic medalist speaks to community

By Staff | Oct 29, 2010

(Chronicle photo by Tricia Fulks) Olympic bronze medalist Lorraine Moller, accompanied by Olympic Trials qualifier Michele Davis, visited Shepherdstown Elementary School Monday to promote healthy living among students. Moller and Davis have a program, Running Start, that emphasizes physical activity in the school systems.

Lorraine Moller and her daughter lived in China just a few short years ago. Whenever the native children would gather on the streets outside Moller’s apartment building to run and play, it didn’t matter that her daughter didn’t speak a word of Chinese. She, too, would join in.

“The games they play,” Moller said, “it’s universal.”

Moller, a New Zealand native and a 1992 Olympic Bronze Medalist in the women’s marathon, and Michele Davis, 1984 USA Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier, visited Jefferson County Monday to speak to students and families about the benefits of running and healthy living. Their new program, A Running Start, addresses the importance of exercise, self-esteem, power of mind and achieving personal bests in a three-semester module.

The runners’ program incorporates different running games and activities into the different lessons for each semester’s module.

“That’s what you want to do on the weekend – go out and jump and play and roll,” Davis told the Shepherdstown Middle School cross country team Monday. “It can lead all the way to the Olympic level or it can be to keep yourself fit.”

Freedom’s Run Race Director Mark Cucuzzella was instrumental in bringing Moller and Davis to the county, where they spoke to students at Page Jackson Elementary School in Charles Town and the middle school cross country team at Shepherdstown Elementary School. Cucuzzella said that Moller and Davis’ program has approximately 60 different running games that educators can adapt as a way to get children out of the classroom to exercise.

“Any activity that involves full-body, full-muscle movement is good,” Cucuzzella said.

Shepherdstown Elementary School Principal Suzanne Offutt said though the school already encourages running through their daily running program and after-school running group, she believes there is more that can be done.

“We really wanted to look into running games, and that’s just what this program does,” she said.

Moller said it is important that the children become active when they are young, otherwise they go through live oxygen deprived an eventually develop bad habits. She also said the school systems need to play more of a role in encouraging healthy living.

“The problem with the ‘No Child Left Behind’ is there is such an emphasis on academics for young children,” she said. “Physical education has really taken a dive.”

Moller said with such alarming statistics these days, a program like hers is necessary. She said that the average 6 to 11 year old watches three to four hours of television a day. That is 1,500 hours a year, and these numbers don’t include the time children spend on video games and computers. Moller also mentioned that 40 percent of children 5 to 8 show at least one sign of heart disease.

With more schools implementing at least 30 minutes of physical activity in students’ days, Moller believes her program can help. She also thinks with more individuals in the community, like Cucuzzella, taking charge, today’s children won’t become tomorrow’s obese adults.

“Mark’s an example of how one enthusiastic person can move a community,” she said.