The course at the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship offers some of the most amazing views you will ever see in a race. From the ridge, you experience sweeping views of the Pacific, Chinaman’s Hat, and the staggering beauty of Kaaawa Valley below. As you run through the valley, you see iconic move scenes as well as the goats, cows, and chickens who call this place home.
One thing you don’t expect to see are girls running in white shirts and pink tutus. While the valley is lovely, it isn’t gentle. The hills are steep, the mud is deep, and the humidity is punishing.
But the girls from Leilehua High School in Wahiawa, HI were undaunted by XTERRA Trail Run Worlds’ reputation and brought both their beauty and their beast to the race. The tutus appeared innocent at first glance but were offset by pink lettering on their white shirts that read, “But Did You Die?”
Their PE teacher, Kimberly Celebre, teaches both PE and Body Conditioning at Leilehua High School and coordinated the efforts to bring the kids to the race.
“I bring the students out here to experience the beauty of Kaaawa Valley and to have the experience of lifetime fitness outside of their community,” said Celebre. “I also want to show them how to keep active on weekends so that they aren’t on their phone or sitting around at home.”
And the tutus?
“A couple of students who did this race last year were so inspired by the energy of the groups and teams that came out last year that they wanted to create their own uniforms.”
Sophomore Mariah Stedman was one of the girls wearing a tutu. But don’t be fooled by that or her pigtails. She won the 15-19 age group by over a minute, and of all the kids from Leilehua High School, she was first to cross the finish line. Like many students at Leilehua, she is from a military family and moves often. Her dad is in the Army and the family moves every three years. Their last duty station before Hawaii was in Waynesville, Missouri.
“We moved here last year on June 6th,” said Mariah. “It’s stressful to move so often because it’s hard to leave my friends behind and then have to get to know a new school and new people.”
Three days a week after school, Mariah participates in Pathfinders, a Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) program that promotes leadership, citizenship, personal growth, and physical fitness. She is also in Ms. Celebre’s Body Conditioning class.
“We do upper body strength which is my weakness, so I really like that,” said Mariah.
In terms of her strengths, it’s clear that running is one of them.
“I’ve never done a 5K so when Ms. Celebre said she was taking kids to the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship I thought it would be a great experience.”
This spring, Mariah will be running track, and because she loved the trails at Kualoa Ranch so much, don’t be surprised if she signs up for cross country in the fall.
One of her classmates, Aaron Collins, wasn’t in a tutu but he was in the race last year which he did without much training. He pushed himself past his limits and his body – unprepared for the challenge – wore out in a dramatic fashion.
This year, Collins wanted redemption. He trained by running every other day and participating in Ms. Celebre’s Body Conditioning class, which includes a mix of cardio and strength routines. The biggest improvement Aaron noticed this year?
“Well, I didn’t throw up,” he said. “And I also felt a lot stronger even though that race is still pretty tough. But because I did the course last year I knew how much further I had to go up the hill. Running a race is so much more fun and satisfying when you are in shape. Ms. Celebre is a very good teacher. We work out hard but she makes it fun and we also get cardio in.”
Proof of this is Aaron’s time, which was about 10 minutes faster than his time last year.
There are no team scores taken at XTERRA Trail Run Worlds, nor awards for the fastest high school or any special trophies. But judging by the smiles on the kids’ faces, they weren’t needed.
“They just had fun and that’s what I wanted for them,” said Ms. Celebre. “That’s what I want for them after high school too. I want them to get involved in their community and do these races and dress up and have fun. It’s so exciting to see them do that.”