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Girls train for annual North Park 5K run

| Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016, 5:39 p.m.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Zoe Hupp (front), Maya Milan (in yellow) and other Baldwin-Whitehall School District elementary students participating in Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC's Girl on the Run program warm up inside the J.E. Harrison Middle School cafeteria before a run Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016. The girls are training for a 5K on Dec. 3.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Skye Tucker (middle in blue) and other Baldwin-Whitehall School District elementary students participating in Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC's Girl on the Run program warm up inside the J.E. Harrison Middle School cafeteria before a run Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016. The girls are training for a 5K on Dec. 3.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Megan Harris stretches with other Baldwin-Whitehall School District elementary students participating in Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC's Girl on the Run program before a run at J.E. Harrison Middle School on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016. The girls are training for a 5K on Dec. 3.

Learning important life lessons can be a challenge for girls in third through fifth grade, but mix in training sessions for a 5K and something amazing happens.

“I believe in the power of running for women,” said Mattie Porter, who coaches the Baldwin-Whitehall chapter of Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC's Girls On The Run program.

“The program is designed for girls to grow up strong and responsible. I like being part of helping them grow.”

For 12 weeks, 14 girls have met twice a week at Harrison Middle School in Whitehall to practice for a 5K run at North Park on Dec. 4. Along with training sessions, the girls learn about themselves, teamwork and community.

The program is held in the fall and spring, but girls in the Baldwin-Whitehall area participate in the fall. This year, two girls from the Upper St. Clair area are joining 12 girls on the Baldwin-Whitehall team.

This is the second year Porter has coached the Baldwin-Whitehall girls. She has a daughter in first grade and another daughter who is 4 years old.

“They made me promise to keep coaching until they can do the program,” said Porter, who became involved in the program because “I really love running.”

Helping Porter coach is Bethani Diulus, whose daughter is 3 years old but who wanted to share her love of running.

“I have a running friend who is an assistant coach at another site and I thought it was interesting,” she said.

Porter said the local Girls On The Run council, based out of Magee, has about 20 chapters in the area. The program started as one school in North Carolina in 1996.

Between 300 and 400 girls will participate in the 5K run in North Park. Each girl is paired with a running buddy. Porter is a member of the Moms Run This Town running club and has been able to get members to run with the girls.

The Baldwin-Whitehall group held a practice 5K two weeks ago. Porter said the team aspect came into play as some of the girls who finished early continued to run with the other girls and encouraged them to finish.

“It's really exciting to watch them cross the finish line,” Porter said.

Jim Spezialetti is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-388-5805 or jspezialetti@tribweb.com.

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