Cecilia Light was like many young student-athletes this spring.
With spring sports canceled and e-learning replacing classroom environments, Light had to find ways to stay busy.
Mostly, the Marist junior missed her teammates, her classmates and her sports, so she decided to do something about it.
Abiding by social-distancing restrictions and 10-person limits, Light organized a running camp with youth runners working out 3 days a week.
“Honestly, this spring you see how stressful a time like this can be,” Light said. “I really missed sports and school and felt like this was a great way to get kids together again, have them look forward to something again.”
Light has run the camp the last two weeks with a group of eight runners meeting three times a week at the Lake Katherine Nature Center and Botanic Gardens in Palos Heights.
The runners go out early in the morning to avoid the heat of the day, mixing in sprint and speed workouts with long-distance runs. Then on Friday, the camp mixes in fun, lighter games and drills.
“We do a mix of both,” Light said. “We try to make it so kids come back. It’s fun and not super-serious, but we want to get a good workout in.”
Light is heading into her senior year at Marist. She ran cross-country her freshman and sophomore years with the RedHawks and is also a standout soccer player.
She has been on the varsity soccer team since her freshman year.
Introducing young athletes to running, Light said she wants to show that the sport is fun to be a part of, not just a practice obligation.
“People think of running as ‘Eh, it doesn’t sound fun,’” Light said. “When you run, your whole mood changes. It’s a good way to stay active, especially when a soccer field isn’t available like now.”
Light originally intended to run the camp alone, but when she got so much feedback, she realized she might need a little help.
She reached out to her friend, Brigid Englehart, a recent Marist graduate and teammate of Light’s on the cross-country team. Englehart also runs on the track-and-field team.
Englehart was more than happy to join.
“I saw Cece’s Facebook post, so I was hyping her up. She’s so great, especially with kids,” Englehart said. “She texted me, and said, ‘Hey, I need a sidekick. Are you in?’ I said absolutely.”
Englehart was scheduled to work at a YMCA camp in Indiana this summer only to see the camp canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Given a chance to do what she loves, she jumped right in.
“I work a lot with kids, whether it’s babysitting or just playing with my younger cousins,” Englehart said. “I knew when my summer job got canceled I needed to do something for younger kids. I couldn’t do a desk job. I needed to be out doing something.”
Englehart will be a freshman this fall at the University of Iowa. She will pursue a major in elementary education.
For now, the impromptu running camp will continue for Light and Englehart.
Light said the camp will take a break for the July 4 holiday, but the plan is to return the next week and go through the remainder of the summer.
For Light, she’s made the best of an unpleasant situation due to the pandemic.
“I was a little nervous coming in. You never know what to expect,” Light said. “I’d never run a camp before. Honestly, it blew away my expectations. The kids are so nice, and we have fun every single day. It makes it all so worth it to run it.”