Middle School Runners Strut Stuff

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The Rim Country Middle School Maverick cross country team is gearing up in after-school practice sessions for the Sawmill Mile.

The run, which precedes the Sludge to the Judge high school homecoming run, begins at 1:15 p.m. Sept. 30 on Main Street.

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The Rim Country Middle School cross country team will be in action today in the Sawmill Mile, set to begin a 1:15 p.m. on Main Street. Immediately following the Mavericks' event, the high school Sludge to the Judge run will be held.

Immediately after the Sawmill Mile and Sludge to Judge, the homecoming parade will roll east on Main Street.

RCMS coaches Nora Lubetz and Deb Jones -- who can be seen running through town in training sessions with their team --ay 37 Mavericks will compete in the Sawmill Mile.

Maverick volunteer assistant Eileen Daniels predicts the rapidly improving young runners will turn in good showings.

"Our runners are progressing and have improved their personal times with each race," she said. "We welcome all spectators (to the Sawmill Mile). Our runners will enjoy showing off in front of a home-town crowd."

The team opened the campaign Sept. 7 at the Payson Golf Course run and has since traveled to Camp Verde, Cottonwood and Bradshaw Mountain for meets.

Remaining on the schedule is an Oct. 5 meet in West Sedona and a first-ever visit to the Arizona state middle school/ junior high championships in late October.

The RCMS cross country program has its roots in 1999 when it was founded by Ellie Hardt and Daniels.

One of its original members, Queen Creek High School senior Kari Hardt, is now the premier high school cross country runner in Arizona.

Each year since it was founded, the number of student athletes turning out for the team has increased.

This year, leadership is being provided by two eighth graders -- Jeff Sokol and Lucy Schouten.

"They are the veterans -- they have been on the team since sixth grade," Daniels said.

Several former Maverick runners also now compete on the high school team.

"It's nice to see that we have done something right," Daniels said. "Hopefully more runners will get it in their blood and continue with the program."

Funding for middle school athlete teams can be hard to come by in the cash-strapped school budgets, but the Mavericks have found a reliable source in Credit for Kids contributions.

"We appreciate all the parents grandparents and community members that donate to it each year," Daniels said.

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