Thanks to some motivated students at the University of North Georgia (UNG), cross-country athletes at a local school will soon be off the back roads and on a running trail of their own.
Students in the Introduction to Recreation and Leisure Studies course at UNG have completed construction of the circular trail, which winds throughout the Maranatha Christian Academy's campus in Oakwood, through wooded areas, across a bridge, and over several hills. The UNG students decided to build the trail after learning that cross-country athletes at the school were running on local roads because they did not have a trail on campus.
"Several of the student builders were runners in high school, so they were very interested in helping the academy have a trail of its own," said Tonya Butler-Collins, assistant professor of health, physical education and recreation in UNG's College of Education. "The project provided a great deal of experience to the students, and the track will also provide a venue for functions such as church and school fundraisers."
Through UNG's service-learning activities, students apply academic knowledge to practical community needs and have the opportunity to develop valuable skills and experience. UNG's commitment to community engagement and service is part of the university's mission statement, and a focus for academic departments and organizations across the university's four campuses.
Butler-Collins said that the students were so dedicated to completing the trail quickly that they worked evenings, weekends, and even during Thanksgiving break.
"We at Maranatha greatly appreciate the time, effort, and expertise of these students," said Delma Simmons, principal of Maranatha Christian Academy. "The trail will be of great benefit to our athletic program. This is the first year that Maranatha has fielded a cross-country team. Our team fared well in competition, and the on-campus trail will enhance the training program of our athletes."
On Monday, the academy held a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the trail's entrance, which was attended by Oakwood City Council member Sam Evans.
"We all wanted to give back to this community and to give Maranatha students the ability to spend more time outside exercising and reconnecting with nature," said Zack Dudley, a junior at UNG. "The whole experience was great, especially because Maranatha was so willing to work with us."
Peyton Dempsey, a sophomore and cross-country athlete at Maranatha, is looking forward to running on the trail. He said that it will be a nice change to run on a shaded, secluded trail rather than running on roads, and that the team is excited to have their own trail, because typically only large schools have their own trails.
"In addition to training, we hope to be able to host cross-country meets at Maranatha, as the 1-mile trail was designed by the UNG students with cross-country in mind," Simmons said. "We are in hopes that the trail will be of benefit to our school and church families, and to our community as well."