Stories And Inspiration

Leading the Pack at Florence GO FAR Club

Submitted by Karen Grossman on Apr 12th 2018 - 12:00AM. | Perma Link

practice

Florence Principal Teddy Wohlgemuth runs with students at GO FAR practice.

At Florence Elementary School on Thursday afternoons, the track is buzzing with runners.

Principal Teddy Wohlgemuth leads the pace for a 30-minute run. School counselor Sonja Thompson helps students build up their endurance. The duo is helping nearly 80 students train for the GO FAR 5K on May 5.

A lot goes into that. “We’re really trying to teach them how to plan and prepare and mentally think about the task they’re getting ready to do,” Wohlgemuth says. “What we constantly are trying to encourage them to do is really think about how they’re pacing themselves and how they’re choosing to attack running for 30 minutes.”

The younger students want to sprint. They really want to beat Mr. W, as they call him. He likes getting to know the students in a different way outside the classroom and seeing them accomplish their goals.

“Mr. Wohlgemuth is a celebrity,” Thompson says. “He is a great blend of encouragement and support while setting high expectations for each of us — students and teachers.”

The kids push themselves to keep up with him. “He runs the whole time!” they say between recent practice laps. “He runs really fast!”

“GO FAR offers Mr. W a way to share his athletic side with the kids,” Thompson says. “I think the kids also think it is a hoot to see Mr. W dressed and ready for a different role than they typically see him in during the day — and doing it well also.”

But GO FAR is about more than running.

“For some of them it’s just having fun. Some of them, it’s enjoying exercise more,” Wohlgemuth says. “It serves a variety of different purposes.”

Encouragement is a big one. Some days, Thompson counsels while running with a partner. The kids learn to support one another.

“I’m telling everybody that while we’re out there, being encouraging and helping each other along is just as important as going out there for yourself and trying to do a good job,” Wohlgemuth says.

Both Thompson and Wohlgemuth strive to model healthy behavior. Wohlgemuth used running to say in shape after playing soccer in college.

Thompson began running at age 40 after a serious foot infection. She began helping Florence’s then-GO FAR coach. “I decided, I can run so I’m going to learn how to run a 5K,” she says.

“I love that our kids have a can-do attitude about exercising,” she says. “We have all sizes, shapes, and athletic ability walking and running with us.”

Wohlgemuth enjoys the time with his students and getting in some exercise. “I try to model for them what it looks like to go out there and set a goal and have a purpose and try to accomplish the goal and the feeling that you get when you finish the race,” he says.

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