By Dave Ongie, News Editor
It’s 7:05 a.m. Do you know where your children are?
If you have a child at Indian Trail Middle School, odds are good he or she is participating in the school’s intramural sports program, which is entering its fifth year of existence.
Last Thursday morning, shortly after 7 a.m., the school gym was packed with participants and spectators as the intramural soccer postseason got down to the nitty-gritty. Teams filed out onto the floor to play quick four-minute contests with the winner advancing and the loser bowing out.
When one game ended, the next began. Physical education teachers Kelly Lane and David Nutter ran the proceedings to ensure a total of 10 games – five inside the gym, five on the blacktop outside – were completed in a half-hour window between 7:05 and 7:35. It all went off with nary a hitch before the hundreds of students packed into the gym departed for class, leaving an eerie silence in their wake.
Once he had a minute to catch his breath, Lane explained the history of the intramural sports program, which grew out of the Morning Mile program that is still going strong at the school.
“I’ve been here six years,” Lane said. “The first year I was here, we just did Morning Mile on the track. When it got too cold, Morning Mile in the gym was great for a while, but when our numbers got bigger, we just ran out of space. So we needed to come up with a different option.”
That led to the birth of an intramural sports program, which gives students the opportunity to form their own rosters and name their teams. As the years have passed, the number of sports offered has grown, and Lane said that has given more kids the opportunity to shine regardless of their athletic background.
Grant Gentry, Nate Stoots and Aiden Smeltzer were all smiles after advancing in the soccer tournament on Thursday morning. The three young men are focused on defending their tournament championship from last fall, and all three talked about their goal of obtaining a coveted intramural championship t-shirt, which would certainly earn the respect of their peers.
“We feel like it’s a lot of pressure because people feel like we’re the best,” Gentry said.
Stoots participates in multiple sports throughout the year and has won championships in multiple sports. He said the feeling of camaraderie he gets from the program and the chance to compete against his peers makes getting up early on school days worthwhile.
And Stoots isn’t alone. Lane marveled at the rapid growth of the intramural program since its inception. Over 300 kids signed up for the soccer league this fall, and business is brisk as kids finalize their rosters for the upcoming dodgeball season.
“The first three years, you could see it growing, but the last two, it’s just exploded,” Lane said. “I think a lot of that is just brothers and sisters going home and telling their younger siblings about it. We’ve got kids now showing up as fifth-graders, and they already know everything. They’ve made up teams and are excited to come and be part of what we do here.”
While the physical benefits of the Morning Mile and the intramural program are obvious, Lane said there are also educational and social benefits to the early morning exercise options.
“It’s for kids whether you’re wired or tired,” Lane explained. “If you’re wired and you need to get your energy out, you can go around the track, run your laps. You can come here and play your games. It gets you calmed down before you get to class.
“If you’re tired, it wakes you up. It gets the body and the blood flowing. Then by the time they get to class, they’re ready to learn and give their personal best. We’ve seen our overall behavior at Indian Trail improve since we implemented these programs.”
Lane said both programs fit into the overall philosophy of Indian Trail principal Dr. James Jacobs, a longtime proponent of the benefits of physical activity in the educational process.
“He’s all about the kids, all about them moving and getting exercise,” Lane said. “If it wasn’t for him allowing us to do what we can do, we wouldn’t be able to do it. This is his vision for kids to be at school and excited before the first bell even rings.”