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Fourth and fifth-graders run the Sams Valley Mini Marathon

SAMS VALLEY — More than 600 children in brightly colored school T-shirts sent dust flying and parents rushing to capture the moment with their cellphones Thursday during the 39th annual Sams Valley Mini Marathon at Sams Valley Elementary School.

Fourth- and fifth-graders from all five Central Point School District elementary schools raced down both sides of Table Rock Road in a sea of blue, red, orange, teal and lime green.

The 3.1-mile Halloween race was founded by Sams Valley teacher Vern Loy in 1974 to encourage exercise on a day when most kids gorge on chocolate and gummy bears.

Central Point Elementary fifth-grader Logan Ball smiled as he rounded the final turn toward the finish line as the clear winner, surrounded by teachers, parents, district officials and an assortment of school mascots.

The 11-year-old, who finished 14th last year, said his plans were simply to "do better than last year."

"I like the trophy because my cousin's name is on it, too," he said, referring to a family member who raced and won years before.

Mae Richardson Elementary student Taryn Dance, 11, didn't plan to take first place in the girls division but "hoped to do really good."

Fourth-grader Emmy Allen said the event teaches students "to be fit and healthy, and that if you eat too much sugar you'll get sick and not be able to run and have fun."

Torrie Allen, Emmy's mom, said her 9-year-old was the third child in the family to partake in the race over the years.

"It's a great opportunity for the kids to get out there and get some exercise," she said. "We're a very active family but a lot of kids don't have that. Even if they get out there and walk, it's a big thing for kids. Three miles is pretty far."

Mae Richardson fourth-grader Zelia Hatcher, who said she was looking forward to the treats she'd get later that night, ran with her mom, too.

"This was a really fun way to start off Halloween," said mom Jamie Hatcher. "Even if kids aren't runners, they can enjoy this and feel like they accomplished something.

"I told (Zelia) it was a good thing she did the run so she could work off whatever cupcake or candy she had later."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at buffyp76@yahoo.com.

Fourth and fifth-graders run the Sams Valley Mini Marathon