By SHELLY WILKISON
Liberty Hill Intermediate School students Tannis Brewer and Kaleb Bannon enjoy running and as fifth and sixth graders, respectively, they already have the taste for competition.
The two students took first place May 9 in the school’s 5th Annual Intermediate Mile. Held this year in Panther Stadium, the annual event offers physical education students the opportunity to beat their own personal best times in a one-mile run while trying to outrace the competition for top finishers.
“That’s a tough distance to run, both mentally and physically,” said LHIS PE Teacher Holly Kociuba. “We love giving the students a chance to compete in the mile.”
Mrs. Kociuba and the Intermediate PE program are the gateway to long distance running for Liberty Hill’s track and cross country sports. Some high school students who have been successful in running events give much of the credit to Kociuba and former PE teacher Vicki Bates for inspiring them to work hard, be healthy and enjoy running.
Brewer and Bannon, while active in softball, soccer, football and basketball, also see a future for themselves in track and cross country. Both were excited to cross the finish line Friday ahead of their classmates.
Brewer finished with a time of 6 minutes and 17 seconds — a record for fifth grade girls at LHIS.
Brewer, 11, said she started preparing for the race a day or two before by staying hydrated. The night before, she ate plenty of carbohydrates and the morning of the race, she had a protein bar.
“I try to get a good start, and during the race I do math problems in my head,” she said, adding that simple addition helps her stay focused when her body starts getting tired.
Brewer said doing math while she’s running isn’t something she was taught. She just started doing it, and yes, she is a good math student.
Brewer has run in several long-distance races including Austin’s five-mile Turkey Trot last November, and 5K runs like the local Thrill of the Hill and Jingle Bell Run. Earlier this school year, she was the first female to cross the finish line at the Intermediate School’s Cross Country race.
She said she is encouraged by her family to run faster and work hard at everything she does. Brewer also plays softball and is a member of the select club Blaze where she plays third base and catcher.
“Sometimes I just like to go out and run for the fun of it,” she said. Her mother, Leslie Brewer, follows her through the neighborhood in the car. The fifth grader said she looks forward to running in PE class, a 10-minute activity that starts every class period.
She said she is also encouraged by older students she sees competing in athletics at the high school. In fact, her favorite quote is something she heard from Senior Blair Lord, “God is my confidence.” Brewer says she repeats the quote to herself when she feels herself growing weary on a run.
Bannon, 12, finished the mile with 5 minutes and 29 seconds — the fastest time of the day and a school record. Bannon beat Denver Ponton’s record from 2013 of 5 minutes and 36 seconds.
Bannon said he was motivated by the competition to stay in front of his classmates on Friday.
Last year, Bannon placed 20th in the race and Friday, he cross the finish line first.
“PE is my favorite class,” he said.
He attributes much of his progress the past year to his active involvement in football through Liberty Hill Youth Football. He also stays active in community league basketball. When he goes to Junior High in the fall, he plans to be part of the football program there. To prepare himself, he will spend most of the summer staying active in PAC and attending football camp.
“I don’t want to get lazy,” he said.
When asked how he stays focused while running long distances, Bannon said he doesn’t recall thinking about anything, other than working to stay ahead of the runners behind him.
He said he sprints for one quarter of the mile, then runs at a steady pace for a half-mile, then sprints the last quarter over the finish line.
Mrs. Kociuba said in addition to Brewer and Bannon, “every runner improved their best mile time for this year except five. (Those are) pretty good numbers!”
She explained that those who run the Intermediate Mile are the top 30 girls and the top 30 boys with the fastest times. The goal of the race is to improve their own personal times.
In the girls race, Shayna Moore won 2nd Place; Madison Fuller, 3rd; Kailee Berzin, 4th; Allysia Palladino, 5th; Madelyn Schutze, 6th; Lauren LaDuque, 7th; Brooke Wright, 8th; Cheyanne Floyd, 9th; and Haley Polser, 10th.
There were 22 sixth grade girls and nine fifth graders in the race.
In the boys race, Gabe Diaz won 2nd Place; Brady Brewer (Tannis’ older brother), 3rd; Carson Perkins, 4th; Matthew Post, 5th; Aaron Stark, 6th; Zane Gruwell, 7th; Matthew Sterling, 8th; Taylor Pearce, 9th; and Ali Nourian, 10th.
There were 16 sixth grade boys and 14 fifth graders in the race.
The entire school was transported by bus to Panther Stadium for the event. Many parents were also in attendance. Crowds cheered for students and music played from the press box as they raced around the track. Principal Kathy Major emceed the event and credited Mrs. Kociuba for coming up with the idea of the Intermediate Mile, which is always held in the final weeks of school.