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The City Journals

Girls on the Run at Valley Junior High

Mar 10, 2016 11:57AM ● By Bryan Scott

By Natalie Mollinet | [email protected]

West Valley - Girls, especially in the junior high years, need more self-confidence. In fact, studies show that when girls reach the ages between third and eighth grades, that’s when their self-esteem starts to go down. There is a program, however, that is out there to help girls maintain self-confidence and learn to believe in themselves. 

The program is called Girls on the Run. It was started in 1996 and now helps more than 168,000 girls in cities all across North America. In West Valley there are several schools that are a part of the program, including Valley Junior High. 

Heidi Morton, who is over the Utah division, said the program has also had a lot of positive feedback from parents. A survey was conducted surveying 1,200 girls and their parents, and 96 percent of parents said that the program was a positive experience for their daughter, while 98 percent said they viewed their coach as a positive role model for their daughter. 

Brinna Torgersen is the coach for Valley Jr. High and has seen girls change not only by themselves but along with their teammates. 

“I have seen girls push themselves to run harder and faster as the season goes by. It’s really fun to watch them on the last day for the final 5K race because they have worked so hard,” Torgersen said. 

The program came to Valley Jr. High when another teacher, Jacob Ballentine, learned that he would need a female coach for the program. Torgersen was more than willing to volunteer for a few reasons.

“I had been wanting to get involved more with the school and get to know the kids better. I grew up playing all sports and my parents signed me up for all sports at a young age,” she said.

Torgersen said that living in the area, she noticed that not a lot of kids had opportunities to sign up for sports, and she wanted to be that person to give them that opportunity. Not only did she want to encourage students to be healthy, she wanted the girls to have space to make new friends. 

 Torgersen said that Girls on the Run is taught differently at a junior high level and is called Girls on Track.

“The curriculum focuses on empathy, self-awareness and self-confidence, which I really like. Kids these days feel so entitled to everything in life and could use some help with showing empathy towards others. This also can be a time when girls start to worry more about the way their body looks. This program has a focus on positive self-image and not to fall into peer pressure or the way the media portrays how females should look,” she said.

At the end of each season, the girls and their running friends complete a 5K. According to Girls on the Run Utah, “completing a 5K gives the girls a tangible sense of achievement as well as framework for setting and achieving life goals. Results are the same -- making the seemingly impossible possible. Simple, engaging the extraordinary. The result? Healthy, confident girls who can.” 

But why running? There are plenty of sports out there that girls can participate in. Morton said that running is a lot more accessible to girls.

“It’s easy and simple and really just a tool to get out and move. It’s not really about training girls to be runners or athletes but to help boost their self- confidence,” Morton said. 

“My number-one priority is for the girls to have fun. While Girls on the Track is different, we still spend two afternoons a week together and have the bus ride to the final 5K, which really bonds the girls together. I also hope they come away with a feeling of accomplishment,” Torgersen said.