In November of last year, the Georgia State women’s cross country team was exhausted after a hard-fought competition in the NCAA South Regionals in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. But neither the cold autumn air nor the lack of sleep from travel was able to stifle the team’s excitement to return to Atlanta and give back to a group of active young girls.
Now almost one year later, the Panthers are preparing once again to rekindle a relationship with the North Carolina-based nonprofit Girls on the Run. The team plans to end its season this November with an annual 5K race that begins and ends at Georgia State Stadium.
For the just the second year, the Panthers will set aside a Saturday morning following a tough on-the-road competition to assist the Atlanta chapter of Girls on the Run and serve as shining representation to a young group of female athletes.
Head coach Chris England and the women of the cross country team are excited to take some time during their grueling schedule to inspire excitement in the young girls about running and fitness, as well as being a servant in the community.
Girls on the Run is a program for young girls in grades third through fifth. Its purpose is to teach students the importance of being physically active while also helping to instill pivotal life skills, all through the medium of sport. Georgia State’s cross country team is exclusively female, and the image that their participation represents for the young athletes of Girls on the Run is an invaluable responsibility the team is proud to have.
“We are looking forward to volunteer again this year in this event. After last year’s positive experience we are excited to see the enthusiasm of so many young girls running the 5k on November 10th,” redshirt senior Nuria Ramirez said. “Exercising is a great way to live a healthy lifestyle, so we hope that the girls will have a great time running and that will encourage them to keep being active and happy.”
The Panthers’ cross country team is active in the community as much they can be during their three-month season. The team, according to Coach England, is especially enthused to help young kids whenever the opportunity arises. On Sept. 15, the cross country team assisted with the Brownwood Bike Rally in Atlanta, a festival focused on health and fitness for both adults and children. All of the proceeds raised from the event went to the Atlanta nonprofit East Atlanta Kids Club.
“It helps indirectly; the athletes don’t benefit anything from it other than the pride and the joy they get from giving back,” England said. “What the community gains from having volunteers, any volunteers, let alone volunteers from Georgia State University, is it greatly helps out whoever is organizing the event, and when you have a dozen of young, college-aged athletes who are excited, it helps everyone get excited for the event.”
Coach England has overheard the cross country team already talking amongst themselves about the Girls on the Run 5K, whether it’s reminiscing about the enjoyment from last season or filling in the freshmen on what to expect.
“We are all excited about the Girls on the Run 5k coming up,” junior Angela Alonso said. “Last year there was a great environment and we had an awesome time. It is nice to see so many people excited before, during and after running.”
Georgia State Athletics is heavily involved in the local community and is often looking for opportunities that will allow the athletes to use their platform and voice to have an impact on the people around them.
“I think as a college athlete [it] is important to give back to the community,” Ramirez said. “Even though [our] schedules are pretty busy between practice and classes, you can always find a time to help out. Volunteering does not cost much and it can be inspiring for the people that we are able to help. At the same time, we get a reward just by seeing people smile.”