Ronda Jameel says Desert Garden Montessori’s sports program epitomizes the school’s goal of being “a place of possibilities where children are free to explore their passions, expand their limits and reach their true potential.”
Recently, she led a team of eight athletes ranging in age from 11 to 15 on a trip to test that potential by participating in the McDowell Mountain Trail Ragnar.
Trail Ragnar is an overnight trail running adventure that is both an endurance test and a chance to bond with fellow runners.
Teams of eight runners run a total 123.2 miles as a relay. Each team member runs three loops totaling 15.4 miles each.
“Most of the teams are composed of adult, experienced runners and it is not an event geared specifically towards children, but our athletes enjoy being treated as equals among this tribe of runners,” Jameel explained.
The teams set up tents in a central campsite in a raucous runner’s village for two nights.
The Desert Garden team, dubbed “Cactus Next Time,” started at 9:30 a.m. and ran through the night with headlamps, a starry sky and into the next morning’s sunrise, finishing around 3:30 p.m.
“In between their runs, our athletes hung out at the campsite, regaled each other with tall tales, took naps, went through copious amounts of food and forged a bond that only such an experience enables,” Jameel said, adding:
“They spent two days and one star-filled night in the desert and tested their skills, limits, endurance and strength on some awesome trails, amazing mountain views and desert terrain.”
This successful experience didn’t happen by accident, Jameel said, explaining, “It took a lot of hard work, dedication and training.”
“We started training in late August by hitting the trails at South Mountain,” she said. “These athletes ran in the afternoon sun and heat, they ran in the rain and they ran at night, logging their miles and building their endurance and stamina. Along with the training, they received lessons on trail safety, proper hydration, nutrition and the importance of flexibility.”
Jameel was aided by assistant coaches Justin Walters and Hogan Roth.
Team members included sixth-graders Ede Patterson, Max Jameel and Nathan Wessel; seventh-grader Emery Myers; eighth-graders Ahmad Mujahed, Ben Maloney and Isaac Romen; and ninth-grader Sammy Delfino.
An up and coming fifth grade Ragnarian, Julian Romen ran along with some team members for practice.
Jameel also said she was grateful to volunteers Luc Chamberlin-Lester, Justin Reed, Brook Haley and Les Smith.
“This was our second year participating in the Trail Ragnar and our athletes tell us that it is one of the best experiences of their life,” Jameel said. “They enjoy every moment of it; setting up the campsite on Thursday, eating some awesome food, enjoying the camaraderie with runners of all ages, persevering through adversity and the sense of accomplishment of a job well done.”