Approximately 250 local runners lined up Saturday morning to compete in three Maple Leaf races.

Approximately 250 local runners lined up Saturday morning to compete in three Maple Leaf races.

Event organizers at the Fair Acres Family YMCA said they were beyond pleased with the turnout.

“I'm excited,” said Bob Brower, executive director for the YMCA. “I think this is 80 more than we had last year … The high school kids that are here together – I think that's great.”

The Maple Leaf 5K, 10K and Fun Walk event was one of a handful of the first Maple Leaf festivities that kicked off a week of events ahead. For some athletes, the Maple Leaf races were an opportunity to come home.

Tiger Pride
As a new cardio fitness coach to the Carthage High School this year, Kelsey Kirby told her class they were going to compete in the Maple Leaf 5K Run.

“I said, 'you want us to do what?'” said CHS senior Toni Simmons, remembering the not-so-enthusiastic reaction from her and her classmates.

Since school started, the high school girls trained by running as much as they could; which they admitted, wasn't a lot. But, Kirby had 68 students sign up for the race, and that was the estimate number she thought showed up Saturday morning.

“I had some girls unable to run a minute without stopping when we first started,” Kirby said. “But a little at a time, we kept improving. And, here we are. I've had many students reach their goals today. I'm super proud of them.”

At that moment, CHS senior Rajan Thrasher came up behind her coach.
“I did it!” she said.

“You did!” Kirby said as she turned to give her student a hug.

“I didn't die,” Thrasher said with a laugh, “that was the goal.”

The White Sisters
Some runners were going head-to-head with not only friends, but family. All originally from Carthage, sisters Katie (White) Badgett, 35; Trudy (White) Artherton, 32; Darcie White, 30; and their sister-in-law, Kim White, 25, competed in the Maple Leaf 5K.

“This is the first year we've done it,” said Darcie, who now lives in Belle Vista, Ark. “I've been running since last year, and did a half-marathon … But yeah, we just decided to get together and do this. It's definably something fun to do.”

There to help cheer on the family, parents Lynn and Tina, 12 grandchildren plus other members of the White family, stood close to the finish line.

“It was exciting – my first race,” Trudy said, who now lives in Diamond.
“I'm proud of all of them,” Tina said, holding one of her grandbabies.

So what does the Maple Leaf mean to this family?

“It defines Carthage,” Darcie said. “It's a tradition families do; my family goes to the parade – and it gives us a reason to come together and enjoy being home.”