Running for America

Kaleena Ricketts

At the conclusion of their 13-mile run, runners embark up the driveway of Miller Elementary School, accompanied by Sheriff’s Deputy and Miller native, Ethan Taylor. (Photos by Kaleena Ricketts)

Members of the Miller High School Military Honor Committee took part in the nationwide event, the Great American Relay, on Wednesday, Sept. 29. Running alongside Highway 96 just east of Miller, are committee members Hailey Mart, Cale Tennis, Owen Pritchett, Logan Neild, (unidentified runner), and followed by high school counselor Courtney Poirot and Samantha Losak.

Miller HS Military Honor Committee takes part in 13-mile leg of Great American Relay
If you happened to drive down Highway 96, just east of Miller last Wednesday morning, chances are you came across a group of teenaged runners, escorted by a Lawrence County Sheriff's truck.
The Miller High School students hoofing down the highway were taking part in the Great American Relay. The event, which covers 18 states, coast to coast, began in Boston and will end in Santa Monica, Calif. There are 415 stages over 3,500 miles and is all done in 38 days. Quite a feat, and all for a good cause.

The relay began on the 20-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, and is held to raise funds to benefit military members and first responders.
When members of the Military Honor Committee at Miller High School were asked if they wanted to take part in the relay by high school counselor Courtney Poirot, more than 20 students jumped at the chance.
Students were asked to each run a one-mile leg of a 13.7 mile relay, that had originally been planned to begin in Halltown and go down Highway 266, but due to a bridge being out just west of town, instead took them down a short jaunt on I-44 and on to Highway 96, something that would make most adults a bit nervous, but these kids didn't seem to bat an eye, staying the course.

Poirot, an avid long-distance runner herself, ran the majority of the race alongside students, accompanied by Samantha Losak, who also ran beside Poirot on a 10-mile leg of last year’s Relay. Also along for that run was Miller resident, Allen Tennis. Tennis did not participate in this year’s event, however, his son, Miller senior Cale Tennis, ran several miles.
Runners were escorted by Lawrence County Sheriff deputy Ethan Taylor for the entirety of the run, helping to make sure that drivers were aware of their presence and moving over when necessary.
While the main purpose of the Relay is to raise funds for military and first responders, it also helps to raise awareness and gives participants a chance to show appreciation for sacrifices made.
"I have always been passionate about supporting our military and first responders, as they risk their lives daily to ensure our safety and freedom. Over the past year and a half I have become very passionate about long distance running, as well. Last fall, I stumbled across 'The Great American Relay' online and found a 10-mile leg of the run was open in Monett. I loved what the relay stood for and decided to sign-up, despite the fact that I had never run that distance before. I’m always up for a new running challenge," said Poirot. "Our committee students didn’t bat an eye when I asked them to run a one-mile leg of the 13.7 mile relay this year. I was incredibly impressed that we had 20 students join in; many of them ran more than one mile!"
Also helping with the event was Military Honor Committee co-sponsor Lanette Kleeman, helping to shuttle runners to and from their designated starting spots and keeping those on social media up to date on where runners currently were.

One detail that made the run that much more special, was that each mile run was done so in honor of each of the 13 soldiers, who made the ultimate sacrifice in a recent Kabul airport attack, an event that was one of the deadliest days for American forces in the past decade of the 20-year war in Afghanistan. Runners wore T-shirts designed with the name of an individual soldier, and signs were placed along the relay route, with a mile marker and the name of the soldier to whom it was dedicated.

Near conclusion of the race, all participating runners met at the First Baptist Church on DD Highway in Miller, and completed the run, side-by-side, 13 flags being carried. They were exuberantly welcomed at the Miller Elementary School, as students and teachers lined the sidewalks with signs and waving small American flags. The high school band welcomed them with a song and members of the local police and fire departments were also present.
As they officially completed their part of the relay, Poirot handed the baton off to the runner of the next leg of the relay, Jerry Brown, who completed a little over nine miles.
Currently, runners are making their way through New Mexico and will finish in California on Tuesday, Oct.19.


Lawrence County Record

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