Longhorn student-athletes, UT Athletics support 16th annual Marathon Kids Kick Off
Sept. 29, 2012
John Byczek, Texas Media Relations
On Saturday morning, a variety of Texas student-athletes, coaches and staff gathered at Mike A. Myers Stadium to support Austin-area children as they started their six-month journey to promote a healthy and fit lifestyle at the 16th annual Marathon Kids Kick Off Celebration.
The community-based fitness program welcomed kindergarten through fifth-grade students and their families to walk or run the program's ceremonial first lap with UT student-athletes lining the track to encourage them. This year marked the 13th time that The University of Texas has hosted the program's kick off event.
Even though the weather was gloomy, spirits were high. Around 19,000 children, parents and supporters were expected to come out. Women's Track and Field head coach Beverly Kearney was happy to welcome the kids, parents and the UT athletes.
"This is an unbelievable event," Coach Kearney said. "Even in the pouring-down rain, so many kids, parents, athletes, community members and corporations are here just to support health and fitness in the community, and mainly to support the kids. Even in the rain I'm having a ball."
The Marathon Kids program encourages these kids to run or walk 26.2 miles in increments of a quarter-mile or half-mile over a six-month period, while also committing to eating five servings of fruits or vegetables 26.2 days a month.
Marathon Kids started in Austin, Texas, 17 years ago and has grown into a national organization.
"We are trying to start healthy habits at an early age," said Taryn Muchnick, Marathon Kids National Events and Operations Manager. "The kids are running and walking and making good nutrition choices with their teachers and their families. The goal is to get that to continue throughout their lifetimes. We're really pleased that everyone could come and we hope that everyone had a great time."
Muchnick said this was best Texas student-athlete crowd that Marathon Kids has ever seen. She was very grateful for the athletes to have sacrificed their time to support the program and the organization, even on such a damp day. She believes this shows how important Marathon Kids is to the UT community.
Student-athletes from men's and women's tennis, men's and women's basketball, women's rowing, men's and women's swimming and diving, women's soccer, men's and women's track and field, football, men's and women's golf and baseball were on hand encourage the kids as they made their inaugural lap, with many Longhorns making the jog around the track with them.
"Seeing all of the children come out, even in the rain, and run with enthusiasm makes me feel so good," said junior sprinter Christy Udoh. "We're doing something for a cause. These kids are out here because they want to be just like the student-athletes that are supporting them here today."
Athletes formed human tunnels and offered high fives and encouraging words as the children made their way around the track.
"I like encouraging these kids," said baseball player Patrick Marsh. "There's a lot of joy in the kids running the laps. They're out here to have fun even if it is raining and wet. It's good for us to get to come out here and encourage them on."
After the kids finished their lap, they got to mingle with the Longhorn athletes and ask for autographs.
"Signing autographs has been my favorite part of today because I get to interact with the kids," said sophomore basketball player Jaylen Bond. "I think it was really great to have such a diverse crowd of student-athletes and teams come out to show support for the cause."
"One of the things that this event does is create that family environment and that team unity, that `We Are Texas,'" said Coach Kearney. "It's not just about one sport, it's not just about men's or women's - it's just about UT Athletics giving back. I don't think that there is a greater bonding experience than to give back to kids."