LIHUE — Chelsea Smith-Wishard graduated from Kauai High School and went to Pepperdine University in California on a scholarship.
Running made it happen.
“The great thing about running is, you can take it with you for the rest of your life,” she told about 25 members of the Island School cross country team on Thursday.
“After high school, it doesn’t have to stop there,” Smith-Wishard said. “If you stay dedicated now, use the great coaches that you have here, the great resources that we have, you guys can keep running. You guys can go to college, you can run there.”
Smith-Wishard, race registration coordinator for the 11th annual Kauai Marathon and Half Marathon, and Robin Jumper, who handles marketing and publicity for the race, visited Island School to talk about the opportunities running can create and the benefits it offers.
They asked trivia questions, tossed out prizes for right answers, and gave away free Kauai Marathon T-shirts, courtesy of Kauai Coffee.
“If you work hard at it and you stick to it, it’s worth your time and it’s worth the commitment,” Smith-Wishard said.
She said some of her teammates at Pepperdine became friends for life. She also came away with a degree from a top four-year university.
“Just through running,” she added. “It’s something that’s really valuable, keeps you in shape, keeps you healthy.”
Eric Wortmann, Island School cross country coach, said that in the past 10 years, about 10 runners from the small school have earned scholarships and gone on to run in college.
“Running and school go together,” he said.
About 2,000 runners are expected at the starting line for next Sunday’s Kauai Marathon and Half Marathon. Both races start at 6 a.m. in Poipu. The finish line is near the Koloa Landing Resort.
The Kauai Marathon Sports and Fitness Expo is 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort &Spa.
Jeff and Liz Sacchini, race founders, have said their goal was to establish a world-class marathon that would benefit charities, students and the island overall.
While it certainly encourages running, its influences on Kauai go well beyond that.
In the past 10 years, its economic impact is estimated at more than $25 million. It has distributed more than $100,000 to local nonprofits and in the past five years has presented $5,000 in scholarships to graduating high school seniors.
“It’s a good way to give back to the community,” Jumper said.
Its youth running program is popular. Saturday’s Keiki Run at the Grand Hyatt Resort &Spa is expected to attract more than 150 eager runners cheered on by ohana.
In the past five years, the marathon’s youth program has reached more than 1,100 keiki.
Each year, people like Jumper, Smith-Wishard and Tyler McCandless, three-time winner of the full marathon and five-time winner of the half marathon, share the rewards of running with students. Wednesday, they visited Kauai High.
“I see all the time and energy you guys put in, especially your school work and combining that with all your training,” said Jumper, whose son runs cross country at Kauai High. “So we want to be here as a resource to support you.”
Running, Jumper said, can take you to new places and on new adventures.
‘You don’t have to be the best runner to do different things with it,” she said.
Smith-Wishard said running in college took her to different states and she learned valuable lessons.
“Kids will tell you their favorite part about college is being part of a team,” she said. “You get to see the world in a way a lot of kids don’t.”
Smith-Wishard received her first internship with the Kauai Marathon eight years ago because she ran on the Kauai High’s cross country team.
“There’s lot of opportunity there for you guys,” she said.
Jumper added that the marathon will need the help of the high school runners down the road.
“You guys can be the next generation putting on the event,” she said.
As they gave away the final prize for the right answer to “How many meters in a mile?” (1,609), the students cheered and applauded.
“Stay fit, stay running, listen to your coaches,” Jumper said. “These guys put a lot of time and energy into you and your sport. And I look forward to seeing you at all the races on Kauai.”
Bill Buley, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or firstname.lastname@example.org.