When 10-year-old Tyler Wirtz sets out to do something, he does it.
This past spring, as a fourth-grader at Central Elementary School, he had a goal, actually several goals, when it came to the school’s Mileage Club program.
“I wanted to break some personal records, and I wanted to get the most miles (that any student has ever gotten in the program),” he said. And that’s exactly what he did.
Mileage Club started about 10 years ago at the elementary school as a program to get kids moving. A course is set up each spring and for about two months time, three times a week and about 25 minutes at noon recess, kids who participate make as many laps around the course as they can. So many laps equal so many miles. And for each set of miles, tokens and other prizes are earned.
The Journal, in cooperation with the school, has taken pictures many years of the kids who’ve earned different goals in the Mileage Club. Often, top earners were able to get 40-50 miles completed in the spring, by walking, running or a combination of both, around the course.
Tyler earned 50 miles last year, a year where he was at the disadvantage of missing one week because his family took their spring break at a different time than the school’s planned break. His mom said missing that week was frustrating for him, and even so, he was among the top Mileage Club achievers.
This year, he was ready to surpass all expectations.
“I did 50 miles last year. This year, I wanted to do 70 miles,” he said.
One thing he knew would help him is that the way that the Mileage Club helpers scanned participants cards last year took a little longer than he liked. They were using iPads with electronic cards to scan them. “Waiting for the scan (after each lap) took too much time,” he said.
This year, they had more volunteers and marked the cards by hand, which was much faster.
The other thing that was going to help Tyler reach a never-before attained number of miles, he said, was that instead of running his laps, he decided to sprint them. He admits it was a tiring proposition. “But I never stopped,” he said.
Running is something Tyler loves. He likes to go out running with his dad, Josh, and his mother, Sarah, said he’s done a number of organized 5K runs while he’s been an elementary student. He’s done Nevada’s Freedom Run and the Lincoln Highway Days Glow Run. This year, he also did his first Hope Run in Ames.
“He’ll love doing cross country (which will start in seventh grade),” his mom said.
He agreed, and he acknowledged that running in cross country will require pacing himself, not sprinting.
Sports, in general, are enjoyable for Tyler. He already participates in youth programs for soccer, baseball and basketball. He looks forward to adding cross country and track to the mix as he gets older.
When asked if any other kids thought he was crazy sprinting around the Mileage Club course this year, Tyler smiled. “The other kids know that’s how I am,” he said. Did they try to join him in his sprints? He smiled again. “They tried,” he said, but adds that no one really wanted to run as much as he did.
He had a goal. He wanted to set the school record, and he did. He filled his chain full of mileage club tokens, with about 103 total tokens earned since he started Mileage Club in kindergarten.
Reaching his goals, “it makes me feel really good about what I chose to do,” he said.
His teacher, Miss Germer, got to pick out a couple of prizes that were special for him as the top mile-getter. She picked out a club T-shirt and a pizza prize from Alley’s in Nevada. He liked both of those prizes.
He also knows that by setting goals and working to achieve them, he’s been a good role model to his younger siblings. Charli, 8, did Mileage Club this past year as a second grader and achieved 35 miles, half-way to beating his record, his mom noted. Kyan, 5, will soon be able to start Mileage Club as he enters kindergarten.
Tyler will now move on to the middle school in Nevada and admits that he’s a little nervous about the new school. He wants to be sure he gets to all his classes on time.
As for the Mileage Club, he hopes Central Elementary continues the program. “It encourages kids to run and keeps them athletic and in shape.”