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Race day at the fitness farm.

For Stephanie Hucko, winning meant being hugged by her proud parents and family. For Lauren Wallerius, winning meant taking home a $1,000 college scholarship--although she didn't know what a scholarship was until after the race!

Each of these children discovered a different way to win. So did 426 other runners ages 4 to 12 who ran during the Eric Schiffer Scholarship Races at the Children's Better Health Institute's Fitness Farm in Indianapolis at tulip time.

When the starting horn sounded, they sped around the track. Parents and celebrities--including television's "American Gladiators," Siren and Turbo, and Olympic champion wheelchair athlete Kevin Saunders --cheered them on.

The runners proved to everyone at the Fitness Farm that they have chosen to be healthy and fit--and that alone makes them winners.

Participants on this beautiful spring day hailed from four Midwestern states.

Sisters Whitney and Kristin Barncord of Granger, Ind., wore matching green outfits and braided clovers that their great-grandmother said would give them good luck. They both crossed the finish line first in their events, even though six-year-old Whitney ran with her shoes untied.

Stephanie Hucko and her parents arrived from Lexington, Ky., at 2 a.m. "I was pretty tired," she says. But that didn't slow her down. She came in first in her race and third overall, and her parents threw a party for her that night.

d'Mario Wells of Chicago Heights, Ii1., a cerebral palsy victim, ran wearing leg braces. After colliding with another runner and falling, he picked himself up and, to the delight of cheering onlookers, finished the race. Afterwards, the Gladiators lifted d'Mario onto their shoulders.

Race sponsor Eric Schiffer summed it up. "Everyone is a winner in my book, and I hope in their own heart," he told the crowd.

Schiffer sees these races as a solid investment in the youth of our country.

"We all have a common goal," he told parents, "the future of our children, because we know this great country of ours is only as good as its next generaton of leaders ."

The young entrepreneur from California provided $14,000 in scholarships to male and female winners in seven race categories. To give everyone a fair chance of winning, predicted-time races were held to allow participants to win by estimating the time in which they would complete the race. It's not always the swiftest who wins, but rather the runner who practices and learns how long it takes him to lap the track. Winner of a $2,000 scholarship, Chris Tiemeier, ran the 200-meter within .19 seconds of his predicted time. "I really didn't think I would nail it," he said, "but I did."

"I think this is a very positive thing, and it should happen all over the country," Siren, of the American Gladiators, told the assemblage. She and Turbo had a special message for the kids: "I want to tell all of you that you don't need drugs to feel good about yourself. Activities, racing, competitive things, those can make you feel good," she said. "Tennis, basketball, and track should be a part of your young life," Turbo added. "You don't have to be the best kid on the court. You don't have to be the fastest. It's all about health and how you are inside."

Racing was only part of the day's festivities, which included Jazzercise, tennis, soccer, golf, basketball, a live band, pony rides, and a magic show. Kids also learned CPR from a registered nurse. Tennis pro Paul Gill, working with the United States Professional Tennis Association, manned one of the busiest posts--the tennis courts. More than 350 children lined up to compete for Prince hats and water jugs, donated by the Prince Manufacturing Co. Other pros conducted a tennis clinic nearby.

Even 5- and 6- year-olds lined up again and again to take a swing at winning a prize by hitting a target that read "Tennis--A Sport for Lifetime." Elsewhere on the farm, a tug-of-war was taking place between the American Gladiators versus 12 determined youth--the kids trounced them handily.

Everybody lined up to add their signatures to the pledge board, promising never to use tobacco products. The 93 square feet of signatures went by mail to Hillary Rodham Clinton.

If you missed the first Eric Schiffer Scholarship Race, don't worry, there are more to come. The next will be held Oct. 30 at Long Beach State in Los Angeles. Children. ages 5 to 12 are invited to participate. The events will include predicted-time races. The Governor's Council on Fitness and Sports, headed by Arnold Schwarzenegger, will be on hand with a Sports Clinic and Exhibition, including celebrities and demonstrations in boxing and gymnastics. To enter, write The Eric Schiffer Youth Foundation, 1407 Lakeshore Circle, San Jose, CA 95131.

A second scholarship race is being planned for April 30, 1994, at the Fitness Farm in Indianapolis. It will include basketball scholarships. Those interested should write to: The Eric Schiffer Scholarship Races, Fitness Farm, 1100 Waterway Blvd., Indianapolis, IN 46202.

The scholarship races are garnering national attention, judging by the corporate sponsors who donated equipment, products, and time. These include Arrowhead Mills, California Raisin Advisory Board, General Mills, Galyan's, Kellogg's, Kroger, Pentel of America, The Finish Line, Crystal Light, Athletic Annex, Fila Sports, and Prince Manufacturing. The National Institute for Fitness and Sport and the United States Professional Tennis Association also helped sponsor the event.

MEET THE WINNERS

The thrill of winning a race is always doubly sweet.

First and most exciting is that pounding in the veins as the ribbon breaks across your chest. Later comes a less frenetic but no less powerful surge of pride when you're honored for your victory at the awards ceremony.

The young athletes who won scholarships at the 1993 Eric Schiffer Scholarship Races certainly know this dual exhilaration. As the children stood in a row in front of hundreds of well-wishers, their eyes sparkled with pride.

Many of these youngsters participated simply for the joy of speeding around the state-of-the-art track at the Fitness Farm. This was certainly true of Lauren Wallerius, eight-yearold winner of the 400-meter race.

"I like to run, but I don't run much, really. I didn't even know what a scholarship was until after I won!" she admitted.

A few, like Ryan Radez, age 10, are veterans to victory. He has run successfully in races for several years. "I run every other day with my dad," Ryan said. "He helps me keep m shape. Someday, I want to run in an ultra-marathon. That's 100 miles!"

For Ryan, there's nothing like an incentive to spur the spirit of competition. His victory was sweetened by the pot of gold at the finish line.

"I ran the [800-meter] race because I wanted to win that scholarship really, really bad," he said, grinning.

Many of the participants hailed from Indiana, but Jimmy Penlesky, age 12, came from Bowling Green to compete.

"That's Bowling Green in Ohio, not Kentucky," Jimmy reminded everyone before the awards ceremony. "I read about the scholarship races in U*S*Kids magazine. I like to run and run, so my parents brought me down here."

Jimmy received a $1,000 scholarship for finishing first in the 1,600meter race for 11- and 12-year-olds.

Cory SerVaas, M.D., as excited as the winners, presented the certificates to each scholarship recipient.

"I can't believe how great these kids are," she said. "They each gave their whole hearts to this event. Even the kids who didn't get a scholarship are winners. They' ve won the race for good health and fitness habits."

As the sun danced in and out of the thousands of tulips planted around the track, the scholarship races came to an official close. But the sparkle in the eyes of the young victors told a different tale. The sweet taste of victory would last them through many happy and healthful days.

Take it from wide-eyed winner Shaina Veeneman, age five: "I can't wait till next year!" she said, running in a tight circle around the awards table.
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Title Annotation:Eric Schiffer Scholarship Races; includes related article
Author:Zukowski, Stan
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Article Type:Biography
Date:Sep 1, 1993
Words:1342
Previous Article:Eric Schiffer: helping kids be winners.
Next Article:Fitness comes in cycles.
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