The 5K Challenge!


Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, PA was the setting. The challenge was a race that was 3.1 miles with memories that will last forever.

On a gorgeous November Saturday at Susquehanna University the Girls on the Run Greater Susquehanna Valley held its culminating 5K race for the fall 2011 season. Coaches, running buddies, volunteers, family, and others joined their young girls for the event for which they’ve been training so hard. The girls from the GOTR sites at Selinsgrove and Midd West School Districts finished the race, and finished strong. That makes their mentors proud.

“The girl I was with was one of the girls I coached at the Selinsgrove Middle School,” said Alex Zappier, an SU student, running buddy, and assistant coach for the Girls on Track program. “It was so rewarding to run with her and coach her through it to beat her personal record in a 5K.

“This was also personally rewarding for me because it was my first official 5K race.”

First-time assistant coach Jeff Shaffer, who works with girls at the Selinsgrove Intermediate School, took great satisfaction in seeing these girls reach their goals of completing the race. Some didn’t think they could do it. “Motivation and hard work go a long way,” he said. “What these girls take away from a simple race is an attitude they can use their entire lives.”

Cheryl Stumpf, executive director of the GOTR council, finds herself in a unique situation being able to see what’s going on across the different groups of girls and coaches. “When we get to the 5K race day I am constantly swept away in the emotion and spirit of the girls as they are crossing the finish line to achieve what they never imagined they could do,” Stumpf said. “My daughter is one of those girls and even though this is her fourth season…I watch her grow emotionally and physically with each passing season.”

Another mother of a daughter in GOTR can relate. Ali Stevens, a coach for girls at the Selinsgrove Intermediate School, thought she knew what most girls are like. However, “through this program, I learned that all girls are different in their own special way and I was pleased that the girls on my team realized what their unique qualities were and embraced them.” She added, “I think it’s important for girls to feel good about themselves and be independent thinkers with a good body image, and this program works…I can see how it has impacted (my daughter).”

Many first-time coaches in this chapter will be forever changed, just as well as their girls. “I had no idea how powerful of an influence it would have on my life,” said Tara Beck, an assistant coach at Selinsgrove Intermediate. “GOTR is a wonderful program that I want to continuously be a part of, to better the lives of young girls and myself.” Zappier said she definitely could have used a program like this to help gain more self-esteem and “appreciate myself for who I was.”

The bonds formed between the girls and their coaches are meaningful, and will surely leave a lasting impact on both sides.
“Our coaches are volunteers who demonstrate the GOTR philosophy and have a passion for making a difference in the lives of our girls,” Stumpf said. “A coach is not just someone who delivers the curriculum. She or he is someone who connects with the girls at the core of who they are and who helps the girls discover qualities about themselves that they never even imagined.

“I know that coaches come back season after season because of how the girls have also helped them to discover the power they posses to not only change lives through the program, but in how they live their lives outside of GOTR. Girls on the Run leads to a truly transforming experience that everyone experiences whether a girl in the program, coach, volunteer for the 5K, board member or a parent.”

The 5K race held November 12 had a record 249 participants that included girls from the program, running buddies and participants from the general public. We’re looking forward to the spring race to be held in Beaver Springs at the Middlecreek Area Community Center on May 19, 2012.

Call for Volunteer Coaches!

Girls on the Run of the Greater Susquehanna Valley has been experiencing such phenomenal growth that we have a great need for volunteer coaches! We are seeking women and men who have a passion for empowering the girls in our region through helping to realize the amazing being that they are. You do NOT have to be a runner to be a coach. Coaches meet with the girls two days a week after school for about an hour and a quarter. A set curriculum is delivered and coaches must attend the coach training in addition to having completed background clearances. Please contact Cheryl Stumpf, Executive Director of Girls on the Run Greater Susquehanna Valley if you have an interest or questions. You can also go to our Web site for more details about coaching and to complete a volunteer application. Please consider making a difference in a young girl’s life! Contact Cheryl Stumpf at for more information.

Jeff Shaffer is an assistant coach for Girls on the Run as well as its PR Committee chair. Jeff is News Director for Max Media in Selinsgrove, PA and is host, director, and producer of Max Potential, a half-hour weekend radio show that started in August 2010. It airs at 6 a.m. on Saturday on ESPN 92.3, 7.a m. Sunday on B98.3 (100.5), and at 9 p.m. on Sunday on Y106.5. Shows feature exercise trends, nutritional advice, cooking, personal-training advice, and more. Jeff began running seriously in 2010 and is coming back from plantar fasciitis.