By Jesse Kucewicz, Contributing Writer
WESTBOROUGH – Two running groups for young girls in Westborough held their end-of-the-season 5K on June 19. Celebrating their seasons, the groups aim to have a greater purpose than just getting participants up and active.
Girls on the Run, a group for third to fifth grade girls, and Heart and Soul, for sixth to eighth grade girls, joined together at the Westborough High School track for the 3.1-mile event, along with family and friends who ran and cheered from the sidelines.
The organizations hold their programs for eight weeks, and each group meets twice per week for practice. Practices aren’t all about the running though, according to Heart and Soul coach Meg Liazos.
“Girls on the Run and Heart and Soul is a program that really empowers young girls to communicate better, to understand and believe in themselves, and to handle conflict in a way that they’re really not taught in other places. And we do that through running,” Liazos said. “The ultimate goal is the 5K, but it’s really kind of sneaky because we’re doing it while we teach them about themselves and their relationships with other people.”
Girls between grades three and eight have a high likelihood of dropping out of sports that they play. So, these groups work to keep girls involved and engaged in a program.
Liazos believes that Girls on the Run and Heart and Soul have become even more important for the girls in the past year.
“They’re on their phones and computers all day, and they’re not having these one-on-one conversations with anyone,” Laizos noted. “I think they’re seeing things on their phones, and it makes them question their self-worth and whether or not they’re good enough. This program gets them to better understand themselves and how to communicate better with one another, which you just don’t really get anymore.”
Rebekah Tregger, who coaches Girls on the Run, said that she has seen the confidence of girls in her group soar over the course of the eight-week program.
“At the beginning of the season they’re like ‘there’s no way I’m going to be able to run three miles.’ But we slowly build up to it, we add a little bit each time,” Tregger said. “It’s to build their confidence and say that they can do something if they really try and set their minds to it.”