Students Conquer the Track at Caldwell Heights Elementary in Round Rock, Texas
By MK Editor, May 23, 2021
Once a month at Caldwell Heights Elementary in Round Rock, Texas, 420 students hit the track for TRACK ATTACK! in pursuit of the Golden Shoe. TRACK ATTACK! is the given name of the school’s Marathon Kids run club, launched in 2013 when Coach Dennis Burns joined the Caldwell Heights campus to teach Physical Education. All first- through fifth-graders at Caldwell Heights participate in TRACK ATTACK!, and they love going after that Golden Shoe.
“It’s a pair of gold-painted old running shoes,” says Coach Burns. The students average one to two miles at each monthly event; then Burns averages the laps to make it fair for every class size. The class with the highest average wins the Golden Shoe.
At the start of the school year, the students work together to create and decorate a race car icon, which is then displayed on the wall in the gym. At the end of each monthly TRACK ATTACK! event, the students move the race car up the leader boards. Every class strives to move up to the “100 lap club” by the end of the school year.
The Golden Shoe may be the most coveted prize, but there are other performance awards too, including tee-shirts and bouncy balls. The students love them all, especially those coveted gold-painted shoes.
The monthly competition inspires the runners to encourage each other and work as a team, and Coach Burns says it is highly motivating for the participants. “We announce the Golden Shoe on our KCHE morning news show and in class,” he says. “We also have a display outside our gym that informs the students of the leaders.”
Marathon Kids Connect Makes Tracking Progress a Cinch
Coach Burns calls Caldwell Heights “an amazing place with a vastly diverse student body,” and says his TRACK ATTACK! runners are “a very balanced group of students that is a real joy to teach and inspire.”
For six years, Burns attended Marathon Kids kick-off events every year and helped to host a Final Mile event for his district in the 2016–2017 school year. Through it all, he manually tracked his students’ running progress by using different colors of Sharpies to draw dots on their hands and recording their laps in an Excel spreadsheet.
This year, he has switched to tracking their progress with Marathon Kids Connect. This free, cloud-based digital tracking app and reporting platform makes it easier than ever to track kids’ active time and celebrate their milestones.
“I love the Connect program,” Coach Burns says. “It has been working great! I love the reports and the ease of making cards for the students. Connect allows the PE staff to actually run and jog with the kids instead of standing there putting dots on everyone's hands.”
He even utilizes the Marathon Kids Connect data as a grade for his students. “We use it as a major test grade with a rubric that I show the students before we ATTACK THAT TRACK!”
Addressing Challenges and Helping Students Get Active Once Again
Periods of remote learning during the past two school years have taken a toll on kids’ physical activity levels. “Students have gotten VERY sedentary,” Coach Burns says. “We talk a lot about reducing screen time and getting mom and dad involved in walking or jogging with them.” He has even had to lower expectations in order to give the students a better chance of earning prizes at TRACK ATTACK! each month. It’s all about meeting students where they are while encouraging them to challenge themselves.
Coach Burns also uses music to help students get motivated to run. “Music is a great motivator,” he says. “I always bring our sound system outside during track running sessions and put on KIDZ BOP. Coach Reyes and I also love to jog and run with the kids to encourage them.”
Due to continuing Covid restrictions, Coach Burns hasn’t yet been able to involve parents in the monthly TRACK ATTACK! meet-ups, as he used to do in the past. “I do invite teachers to run at least one lap,” he says, “but I tend to do that after the school year progresses.” He looks forward to being able to make the monthly runs more of a community event once again.
Effort Over Everything
“Physical activity is so important,” Burns says. “I was a college soccer player and was fit, but in my mid 20s, I gained some weight and didn’t feel as good as I should have. My wife and I decided to make health a priority.”
He always runs with his students, and participates in PE and Marathon Kids activities with them whenever possible. “I also go home each night and work out,” he says. “As I tell the students, this is the only class that will help you live longer if you apply it to your life. Effort over everything.”
For others who are considering the Marathon Kids program for their students or children, Coach Burns says, “Give it a shot! If you are worried, try just one grade.” He says Marathon Kids Connect is easy to learn, navigate and implement, and there is plenty of support available from the Marathon Kids team if it’s needed.