Children scream playfully and kick up dust in the bright morning sunshine as they are chased by physical education teacher Sara Trone. She dons the popular shark costume and chases the students around the track, racking up a solid 2 1/2 miles herself before the first bell rings.
School doesn’t start for 45 more minutes, but students — including, from left, Brandon Cowen, 7; Samuel Piazza, 10; and Jorge Magana, 9 — and a handful of parents have begun walking and running around a well-trodden track, which runs a quarter-mile around the park bordering James Gibson Elementary School in Henderson.
Trone estimates there are more than 400 children in the JAWS (Jogging And Walking) program at Gibson. The Clark County School District estimates 55 percent of the county’s elementary schools have JAWS programs, while schools do either early morning or after school running clubs.
At Gibson, JAWS takes place before school and at lunch every day except Wednesdays.
“They get a punch for every lap and when they fill up a card (15 miles) they get a little foot charm for a bracelet,” Trone explains. “I think this definitely makes running a fun thing, a community thing. They’re seeing their friends from school, they’re seeing families and dogs and other parents that come out and join in.”
In her fourth year working in the district and first year at Gibson, she says, “I think we have a really good program going on here. It’s great to see the improvements.”
And what’s it like in the costume?
“HOT!” she says. “But it’s fun, it’s a blast. I have the greatest job ever. I love it!”