Students run their hearts out

A flock of runners wearing the bright blue and gold colors of Woodrow Wilson Middle School circled the school on Friday morning as hundreds of students jogged in Wilson’s annual “Run For Your Heart” race.

About 550 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders ran in the 1.5-mile contest, in which students looped around the school on side streets three times, said Scott Knapp, a physical education teacher.

While the fastest runners were recognized and the students’ times were noted, the run is a voluntary activity that students are encouraged to participate in for exercise and enjoyment, several educators at the school said.

“We want them to run because it’s their choice,” Knapp said.

The Run For Your Heart started 15 years ago at the school. It used to be held on Valentine’s Day, but since the school sometimes holds a dance on Valentine’s Day, students weren’t always keen on running and getting sweaty on the day of the dance, Knapp said. Now the race is held on the Friday before the holiday, Knapp said.

The eighth-graders ran first on Friday morning, and 14-year-old Chris Canlas finished first, completing the course in 9 minutes and 9 seconds.

Chris finished first among seventh-graders when he ran last year.

This year was easier, Chris said, because the student who came in second last year didn’t run.

The sixth- and seventh-graders ran together in the second race of the day.

“Go slow,” Knapp advised the students.

“The kids are not used to the distance, and they’re so excited about running with their friends they don’t know how to pace themselves,” he said.

As the pack of students came down the first stretch of road behind the school, students who had chosen not to run watched and cheered.

“Oh my god, yeah, people are coming,” yelled Michelle Valladares, 13, who had stayed behind to write down the winners’ scores at the finish line.

“This morning, I went to the gym at 5 a.m. so I was too tired,” Michelle said of her decision not to race.

Jaklin Minassian, 13, cheered and kept score.

“I don’t know, I’m not really into running,” Jaklin said.

About half the school’s students participated in the race, Knapp said.

Andrew Berry, 12, crossed the finish line first during the race for sixth- and seventh-graders, with a time of 9 minutes and 28 seconds.

“It was hard and long,” Andrew said.

Zara Minasyan, 11, was the first girl to finish, with a time of 10 minutes and 45 seconds.

“I was determined to get first, but I wasn’t sure,” Zara said. “I like to run.”

Gil Aviles, a physical education teacher who competes in triathlons, ran the race with the sixth- and seventh-graders.

“It’s a nice way to break up the whole routine,” Aviles said. “It’s kind of a celebratory atmosphere.”

 ANGELA HOKANSON covers education. She may be reached at (818) 637-3238 or by e-mail at

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