Coach Michael Connors recently received a grant for $1,000 from New York Road Runners, and he plans to use the money to buy uniforms and equipment for the middle school running team.
Connors is a teacher and an avid runner, and likes to share his passion for running and fitness with interested students. He recently became head cross country coach at Dilworth, but has been running with the students during practice for the past five years.
Until this year, he said, the cross country team never had uniforms, so he had T-shirts made for the runners. Now that the school is receiving grant money, Connors said he is excited to be able to purchase better uniforms for the team.
“I think it is important for the kids to be able to have a uniform and a shirt they can wear and be proud of that sets them apart,” Connors said.
Connors said he was surprised to find out he had won the grant, especially since finding the application online and filling it out was practically an accident.
“I have an absolute desire to run in the New York City marathon,” Connors said. “I’ve done Boston and some of the other big ones, but not NYC.”
While perusing the Internet and researching the NYC marathon, Connors said he discovered information about a promotion of the New York Roadrunners called “A Running Start.”
According to a press release from NYRR, A Running Start is a new, free online video resource that awards grants to support coaches and programs that promote youth running.
“Grant winners get to choose what school or organization receives the money, and Mr. Connors has chosen the Dilworth Knights cross country team,” NYRR spokesperson Jennifer Slomack said. “The money will go toward getting the team uniforms, paying for entry fees to local running events and other necessities, which gives them the opportunity to continue doing what they love: running.”
“The kids love getting to run with their friends and they are always excited to see how their times and fitness improve the more they run,” Connors said.
Dilworth Principal Laura Peterson said she is pleased the school will now be able to purchase the right type of running equipment for student athletes to be able to run safely.
“Mr. Connors wants to do a running club all year,” Peterson said. “The kids are excited about that.”
Many students who have gained an interest in running through Connors’ influence had never thought about becoming runners before, he said.
“I like to find ways to make it fun and engaging,” he said. “A lot of them have always seen running as a punishment, so I had shirts made for our team that say, ‘My sport is your sport’s punishment.’ ”
New York Road Runners was founded in 1958 and is dedicated to promoting the sport of distance running, enhancing health and fitness for all and responding to community needs. Road races and other fitness programs draw about 300,000 runners annually.