Close to 600 New Balance running shoes were recently handed out to physical education students attending Tucker Elementary.

The huge shoe donation is the result of a collaboration between the school and a non-profit running organization based in New York City.

Students earn T-shirts, head bands and lunch boxes for completing running lap goals through the New York Road Runner’s free program.

Tucker students were surprised by being chosen to also receive new tennis shoes.

Cassandra Northrup, the PE coach at Tucker, said the students were so excited when they tried on the shoes to make sure they fit.

“A lot of them were like I can’t wait to run in these; I’m going to be so fast,” she said.

Northrup was involved with the program for six years in Ascension Parish and brought it with her when she transferred to Tucker last year.

The program, which promotes fitness to combat obesity, is called Tucker Trot at the Ponchatoula school.

The goal for a lot of students is to complete a full marathon, which is 260 laps, by the end of the year, she said.

Students who reach this goal get a marathon medal from New York Road Runners.

Northrup celebrates students’ achievements as they reach the 100-lap, 200-lap, and 260-lap milestones by announcing it over the speaker. She uses an app where a QR code is scanned to track students’ laps.

Earning T-shirts and other prizes with the program keeps the students motivated, she said.

To help teach teamwork, Northrup awards the individual certificates to students for their own accomplishments, but she waits until the whole class finishes 1,000 laps before she gives T-shirts.

“It teaches them to push themselves but also help their classmates,” she said.

COVID-19 restrictions limit what students do during PE, but one thing they can do is run.

Because of this, they are participating in Tucker Trot more often than they did last school year when Northrup started the program there. She pushes them to set a goal for how many laps they can do during the PE period.

Students are really enjoying doing it weekly, as opposed to doing it once a month like it was done last year, she said.

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