‘Girl power’ helps 105 girls make it across the finish line

Posted: November 18, 2013

The Winchester Star

Participants in the Girls on the Run 5K leave the starting line in Jim Barnett Park on Saturday morning. A 5K is 3.1 miles long. (Photo by Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star)
ABOVE: Amitty Gray, the Girls on the Run coach at John Kerr Elementary School, gets ready to hug one of her runners as she approaches the finish line. (Photo by Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star)
Powhatan School third-grade teacher Ryan Gilpin runs with fourth-grader Ele Smalley during the 5K. (Photo by Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star)
Nick Labrozzi, 6, and Silas White, 10, support their sisters — Dani Labrozzi and Grace White, respectively — and the other girls from John Kerr Elementary School who were running in the race.


Isabella Manheimer had a strategy for running up the hills Saturday morning during the Girls on the Run of the Shenandoah Valley Fall 5K.

When the 8-year-old arrived at the bottom of a hill, she imagined a rope in front of her, put her arms out, and started pulling herself upward, she said.

“It makes it go by faster and you don’t feel the pain as much,” said Isabella, daughter of Katie and Howard Manheimer of Winchester.

The strategy, which a friend had shared earlier, apparently helped, she said, because she finished in just over 29 minutes — her best 5K time yet.

Although it was her third 5K, it was her first as a participant of Girls on the Run, an after-school running program for girls.

Isabella was one of 105 girls who completed the 5K Saturday in Jim Barnett Park, capping off a 12-week season that saw them training, playing and building self-confidence, said Allison Major, council director of the area program.

“For them to come out and run or run/walk a 5K when they are 8 or 9 is a tremendous accomplishment and something they can carry with them,” she said.

The girls were joined by 251 other runners and walkers and cheered on by several hundred onlookers. Although men, women and boys joined in the merriment, the message of the morning was definitely about “girl power,” Major said.

The morning started out festive and stayed that way until the end. After many of the runners sprayed their hair different shades of green, pink and purple, they warmed up by dancing to songs such as the “Wobble” and “Cha-Cha Slide.”

Katie Manheimer said Isabella was so excited she insisted the family be there when registration opened at 7:30 a.m. and was on the front line of the race when it started.

“It is so exciting to see her have a goal and be enthusiastic about it,” Manheimer said. “She seems to have found a passion with running, and I really appreciate that.”

Isabella said she was inspired by her dad, who was her running partner Saturday. She finished ahead of him, she noted with a grin.

Enthusiasm bounded along with the girls as they finished the race amidst cheers, clapping, and cowbells ringing.

Anna Prosser, 9, of Winchester crowned her third season in Girls on the Run by being the first program participant to cross the finish line. She is the daughter of Claire and Reed Prosser.

The time of 25:20 was her personal best and she was happy to have the Girls on the Run medal hanging around her neck, she said. But with her breathing still labored from exertion, she said the highlight of the race was the water at the end.

“The race felt really nice,” she added. “I hope I can beat my time next year.”

The 5K was “tiring but fun,” said Grace Palmer, 10, the daughter of Tim and Chanda Palmer of Frederick County. She ran with her mom and said it helped “to know there was somebody there to help keep me going.”

Grace said she loved everything about the Girls on the Run program, but the best moment of all was crossing the finish line to the sounds of people cheering for her. “It was a relief. I was happy.”

— Contact Laura McFarland at lmcfarland@winchesterstar.com