Miles to go before they study

Rene Flores says it helps him get faster and stronger.

Kinzie Phillips says she can let out all her energy.

Nathan Baker says it helps get his giggles out.

For Tami Wall's third-grade students at Helen Haller Elementary, hardly a day goes by that they're not out on the Sequim High School track, running or skipping or walking, part of an academic exercise in physical exercise.

"Their minds work better if they are in motion," Wall says.

One student, Wall notes, can run two miles without stopping.

The goal, Wall says, is not just to get her youngsters healthier but also to teach them to count and to understand how healthy bodies help create healthy minds.

Third-graders don't have recess in the morning, so Wall has had them out on the track pretty much since the first day of school, save a day or three (icy conditions).

"Basically, rain show or shine, we're on the track," Wall says.

"One time there were puddles and they were frozen over," student Mary Hill recalls. "A bunch of people were slipping around the track."

The running sessions come with rules and expectations: No walking backward. No waiting for friends (they have to catch up). Go one way the whole time. No climbing on the bleachers near the track. No playing with the grass.

And the No. 1 rule is: Stay in continuous motion.

The laps on the track have helped Wall reduce weight and get healthier as she battles chronic myeloid leukemia; she was diagnosed in October ("Teacher climbs for leukemia funds," page A-19, April 1).

"I have to be a model for these kids," Wall says.

It seems to be working.

"When we go around the track," Chloee Adams says, "I get fresh air. It's made me healthier."

Reach Michael Dashiell at

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