By Amanda Hatfield Anderson
MELBOURNE BEACH -- Adrian Rupp has a reason to celebrate this holiday season.
The third-grade student at Gemini Elementary in Melbourne Beach recently completed 100 miles in the school's "Morning Mile Program."
Since May 2013, Gemini Elementary has been participating in this before-school program, which is part of a national effort to give children a chance to start their day off with exercise, increasing their focus and fitness daily.
Sponsored by Atlantis Urgent Care, 64 percent of Gemini's 550 students are actively participating in the Morning Mile Program.
"In this school year, we have had more than 350 students come out and join us in the mornings," said Gina Baublitz-Rupp, Morning Mile Coordinator and proud mother to Adrian, in a press release. "So far this year, they've run more than 4,000 miles."
Each student receives a necklace, which they can add sneaker charms for every five miles walked or ran. For every 100 miles, students will receive a T-shirt and their name on a "brag board" in the school's center court.
Between 7:15 and 7:45 a.m., Mrs. Baublitz-Rupp oversees the students, who participate in the Morning Mile program.
"The distance the students walk or run depends on when they arrive at Morning Mile, and if they walk or run," she said. "The amount of laps varies between one and 20 laps, with six laps equal to one mile."
Mrs. Baublitz-Rupp said Emily Cates, a fourth-grade student, currently holds the record for most laps ran in one morning, with 20 laps completed.
"We encourage students to participate within their own capabilities," Mrs. Baublitz-Rupp added. "Our goal is to combine a love of fitness with the social interaction inherently offered in this program."
Atlantis Urgent Care's Dr. Bjorn Dimberg mirrored Mrs. Baublitz-Rupp's enthusiasm for the Morning Mile Program.
"This is a wonderful program that encourages children to start their morning off with physical activity and even a little socializing as they run with their friends," he said in a press release. "It helps reinforce the idea that fitness is a lifelong pursuit, and we are proud to sponsor this great start to their morning and a great start of a lifetime of healthy living."
The staff at Gemini Elementary could not agree more with Dr. Dimberg and Mrs. Baublitz-Rupp, and have said that because students have expending that extra morning energy, they are more focused in the classrooms -- an added advantage for teachers.
Adrian Rupp, 8, however, is simply happy to have completed his goal of running 100 miles, and is looking forward to his next goal.
"It felt really good to run 100 miles," Adrian said. "My new goal is to run 200 miles by the end of the year."