By Amy Zillner
The students of Cottonwood Elementary School were in for a winning sight as they returned to school Monday from spring break: a trophy which their principal, teachers and family members won after running 131 miles at the Run4Kids 24-Hour Ultramarathon, Relay and Big Running Party in Corona on March 16 and 17.
Principal Chris Mauger said the relay race was a fundraiser for the 100-mile club, which promotes "fitness and running" by encouraging elementary and junior high students to run or walk 100 miles.
Today kids are less physically active, Mauger said, and the club gives them a chance to be outside instead of just sitting. He said he wants to start the club at Cottonwood.
Michelle Barnes said it's an activity kids can do for free without the cost of being involved in a team sport like soccer. As a family, she and her husband encourage their two kids to exercise. Barnes' 5-year-old daughter, Peyton, got three miles in the kid's run.
"I'm so proud to be a part of the team and help the Cottonwood coyotes get the trophy," Bobby Mauger, Chris Mauger's brother, said.
Their relay team consisted of 12 runners: Lorena Bentz, Staci Schmitz, Katherine Shea, Michelle Barnes and sister Rebecca Faler, Renee McAnulty and husband Brandon McAnulty, Rachel Solomon and daughter Alyssa Solomon, Chris Mauger, wife Theresa Mauger and Bobby Mauger.
At 2 a.m., they took the lead against five or six teams by being the first to reach the 100-mile goal. Then they found out a trophy would be awarded to the team with the most miles — they agreed they wanted the trophy for Cottonwood.
"Take any one member off the team and I don't think we would have done nearly as well," Chris Mauger said.
With a new goal in mind, the team was surprised when another team brought in ultra marathon runner Thomas Podell.
The team was even more motivated to win and prove that "every day people" who only run three miles a day because of work and family obligations could still win against Podell who could've run the 100 miles alone, Renee McAnulty said.
The remaining members of the Cottonwood team each ran half a mile to keep the lead and switched out, until Bobby Mauger returned to the race and finished out the morning, according to Chris Mauger.
And how did they get the win?
"Sheer determination," Theresa Mauger said.
"By taking turns and working together — we didn't ever give up we kept going and going," Katherine Shea said.
Podell took note of the school's team, and offered a word to one of Renee McAnulty's teammates.
"(Podell) said he'd never ever forget the Cottonwood Coyotes," Renee McAnulty said. "We were an inspiration to him."