After having dismal numbers regarding childhood obesity, Kentucky now has something to brag about.
Beaumont and Winburn middle schools came in first and second, respectively, in a pilot program aimed at getting young people up and moving.
Officially, 1,050 students at Beaumont walked 255,529 miles during the six-week "World Fit: Olympians for Worldwide Fitness" program spearheaded locally by Olympians Micki King and Tyson Gay. That worked out to be 5.8 miles per student per day.
At Winburn, 601 students walked 120,871 miles, resulting in 4.5 miles per student per day. All the students in both schools signed up to participate in the program.
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King, a 1972 gold medalist for springboard diving, said she had been told that Winburn was third among the 20 schools throughout the country that took part in the program, which started with one school in Florida last year.
But "when the newest calculations came out," King said, Winburn was second. "What really made the stats go in our favor was the 100 percent participation at both schools. That tipped the scales easily in our favor. Our kids all bought into it."
And so did the teachers, according to the coordinators at each school.
"Our principal got on board and said this is something we are going to do," said Lora Browning, physical education teacher at Beaumont.
Teachers and students walked together giving each time to talk about subjects other than schoolwork, she said.
"It let them associate being active with something fun," Browning said. "If it's not going to be fun, they are not going to be doing it."
And that was the key to the two schools' success. Although each school has physical fitness courses, "The kids liked this Worldwide Fitness better," said Susan Sallee, physical education teacher at Winburn.
"Everyone was expected to walk," Sallee said. "Teachers who walked could donate half of their miles to a student. That was incentive for them."
The theme was "Walking to London and Back," the site for the 2012 Summer Olympics, where Gay plans to compete. With so many students participating, the route to England went through the host cities for the summer Olympics since the students were born, starting with Atlanta in 1996. That would make the trek 25,000 miles.
Participants could also use their sports and leisure activities to add to their totals.
Seventh-grader Charles "Chas" Brubeck IV, 12, earned the Golden Sneaker Award, logging 1,185 miles for Beaumont by playing soccer, running extra miles on the track and jumping on his trampoline.
World Fit was co-founded by Gary Hall Sr. last year in Florida. The Olympic swimmer thought young people, eager to move outside more as the temperatures warmed, would be more amenable to walking after spring break.
He had hoped the children would walk 10 miles each week but discovered they had walked 3 miles each day.
With that taste of success, Hall contacted other Olympians and Paralympians to help set up the program in their communities.
King jumped at the chance and brought Gay on board. "This fit my MO (modus operandi)," she said. "World Fit has given me a way to make it better for those who follow."
When she met with Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Stu Silberman to get the pilot program started in Lexington, King was handed a paper that said Kentucky ranks seventh nationally for adult obesity and fourth for children age 10 to17.
"He had that on his desk," she said. "That's the reputation Kentucky has. Now, with World Fit, we can look that number right in the face and say we are not talking about this, we are doing something about our problem."
King hopes to get the six-week program in all 11 middle schools in Lexington next spring.
"We made national news," she said. "That is a huge motivator.
"Kentucky is one of the worst states in the country for child fitness, but we are now also known for being proactive," King said.