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Berkeley Elementary guidance counselor gets kids up and running.
Berkeley Elementary Running Club members get fired up before taking on the course around the school.
photos by PETER CIHELKA/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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By PAMELA GOULD
Students in Berkeley Elementary's running club raced onto the blacktop and filed into lines as soon as the schoolday ended on a recent afternoon.
Then, with precision that would make a Marine drill sergeant smile, the boys and girls spread apart at arm's length and began a series of stretches.
Soon, at the crisp command of guidance counselor and coach Anthony Bramlett, the children ages 8 to 11 started running the perimeter of the Spotsylvania County school's field in small groups.
Bramlett, 41, started the running club in 2004 in recognition of the epidemic of childhood obesity sweeping the nation.
He also wanted to provide a way for youngsters who live in a more rural part of the county--the Blaydes Corner area--to get regular exercise without needing to sign up for an organized team.
The choice of running was an obvious one for Bramlett, a Memphis native who ran track at the University of Kentucky. He followed his college coach to the University of Maryland, where he earned his master's degree while helping with the track team.
During the last eight years, Bramlett ran the Berkeley club for third- through fifth-graders the first 10 weeks of the school year and then coached the track teams at James Monroe High School in Fredericksburg during the winter and spring seasons.
At James Monroe, he coached male and female athletes to state titles and earned recognition from The Free Lance-Star as the area's track coach of the year multiple years.
Bramlett, who is married and has a 21-month-old daughter, has been a counselor in Spotsylvania schools for 16 years, his last 12 at Berkeley.
He said his goal is to teach young people more than running technique and fitness.
He wants to instill in the students such values as respect for others, a strong work ethic, being a good citizen and resiliency.
He especially wants them to learn the value of commitment and endurance.
"It's my hope what we do in the running club is going to take them into middle school and high school and into the real world," Bramlett said.
The Berkeley running club has been around long enough to inspire a series of siblings to participate and other schools to start programs.