Education

If you build it, they will run: Meridian ‘Pacers’ succeed in quest for new running track

The Ponderosa Pacers, the running and walking gang at Ponderosa Elementary School in Meridian, celebrate their new track built with grassroots spirit and help from the community.
The Ponderosa Pacers, the running and walking gang at Ponderosa Elementary School in Meridian, celebrate their new track built with grassroots spirit and help from the community. Jennifer Stoor

We first told readers in 2015 about the “Pacers,” the running and walking enthusiasts at Ponderosa Elementary School in Meridian.

The running and walking started back in 2002 when the school opened. The Pacers and their teachers made do at first with routes marked with cones, then with a quarter-mile asphalt track paid for by the school’s PTA. But the Pacers started logging so many miles that they decided they needed a new track to support their program.

Physical education teacher Jennifer Stoor led the charge and set the goal of raising nearly $40,000 to build the track.

In addition to in-school fundraisers, the Pacers got help from the community. The Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation kick-started the effort with a donation of $10,000. Local runner and running shoe store owner Mike Shuman donated, as did Meridian Mayor Tammy de Weerd and many other members of the community.

The Pacers recently celebrated meeting their goal. They opened up their new track with a public celebration on Sept. 2 at the school.

The Pacers, said Stoor, “are the culture of Ponderosa.” Students, teachers, the principal and parent volunteers take part. At each recess period, the track is packed to capacity with runners and walkers of all ages and speeds, she added.

“Most of these Pacers kids started in strollers on the old track following the footsteps of their older brother or sister,” said Stoor.

They continue to achieve at their own fitness levels, she said, “from the second-grade boy who lost 20 pounds, to the girl who has a newfound confidence, or the child who learned to control his asthma, to the boy who considered himself a “nerd” and now an athlete, to the students who find friends and a way to not stand around and be bullied, and the student who needs energy released to be ready to learn in the classroom.”

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