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Running Up the Miles: Samuel Morey Students Earn Tickets for Reaching Exercise Goals

  • Garrett Steever, left, and Jordan Larson run past classmates during their recess at the Samuel Morey Elementary School in Fairlee. Students have been running during their free time at school to accumulate miles. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    Garrett Steever, left, and Jordan Larson run past classmates during their recess at the Samuel Morey Elementary School in Fairlee. Students have been running during their free time at school to accumulate miles. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Jordan Larson displays the foot charms he has earned while running at recess. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    Jordan Larson displays the foot charms he has earned while running at recess. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Savannah Gray runs around the baseball fields to complete a lap during recess at Samuel Morey Elementary School in Fairlee. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    Savannah Gray runs around the baseball fields to complete a lap during recess at Samuel Morey Elementary School in Fairlee. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Garrett Steever, left, and Jordan Larson run past classmates during their recess at the Samuel Morey Elementary School in Fairlee. Students have been running during their free time at school to accumulate miles. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)
  • Jordan Larson displays the foot charms he has earned while running at recess. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)
  • Savannah Gray runs around the baseball fields to complete a lap during recess at Samuel Morey Elementary School in Fairlee. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

Fairlee — There was a spirited game of pickup basketball happening on Samuel Morey Elementary School’s paved outdoor courts during a recent recess, but third-graders Kyle Carter and Garrett Stever were running circles around it.

Active participants in the school’s “mileage club,” Carter and Stever were chugging through laps in a quarter-mile loop marked by stakes behind the school. For every lap, the boys — along with the other roughly 160 Morey Elementary students who participated in the mileage club this year — earn tickets. Save five miles’ worth of tickets (or two miles’ worth for students in kindergarten and first or second grade) and they can be traded in for small, collectible rubber feet, each with a different paint design and a hole so they can be threaded onto necklaces or shoelaces.

“It’s just great exercise,” said Carter, who’s run about 100 miles to stock up 20-or-so feet. “The feet are really cool, all kinds of different colors.”

Stever’s motivation was even simpler: “I just like running around,” he said.

That’s the whole point.

Organized by first-year physical education teacher Skip Kunecki, Morey’s mileage club has been helping kids get a good cardiovascular workout since last fall. That’s when Kunecki, 23, introduced the cool rubber feet and explained the parameters of the program during gym class.

The first thing that needed to be understood was that there were goals involved. Specifically, a targeted school-wide mileage total of 2,013 to mark the 2012-13 school year. After logging more than 1,000 miles from September-November, students took a hiatus for the winter before resuming in April and reaching the goal last month. Collectively, they’ve now run more than 2,200 miles.

“When we first started last fall, they were really enthusiastic about it, and it was kind of ‘boys against girls,’ ” said Kunecki. “The teachers loved it because (the students would) come back to class without any cooped-up energy. They talked a lot about how focused they seemed afterward.”

The program made school librarian Joyce Russell happy, too. Last fall, she and Kunecki asked teachers to write a page about their favorite books and stories. The writings were laminated and attached to the posts along the route. The pages, which have since been taken down, were meant to give the running students a break between post markers as well as introduce them to new books.

“We incorporated the literacy element at the beginning, which I thought was a great idea,” Kunecki said. “We called it. ‘Run to Read,’ and I think a lot of kids thought it was cool to learn about their teachers’ favorite books.”

The program also appears to help students socialize.

Third-graders Grace Davis, Willow Wilson, Alex McFate and Kylie Taylor spent an entire recess running as a unit on the route, with break intervals to walk and talk.

“I can’t believe I’m running in these shoes!” said Wilson, clad in woven sandals. “Some people say I’m the fastest in my grade.”

“That’s because you are!” McFate concurred.

A Buffalo, N.Y.-area native who never ran competitively until after high school, Kunecki has since run in both the Boston and Lake Placid marathons. The State University of New York-Brockport graduate plans to keep encouraging running activities as long as he’s at Morey Elementary.

“It’s been really fun. The kids love it and the teachers love it,” Kunecki said. “You’ve got to be proud of everyone for reaching our goal.”

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.