A group of Lincoln Hills School students pushed their own limits while helping others as they participated in the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Thursday.
For over a dozen years now, students from the Irma juvenile corrections facility have made the 11-mile run from Lincoln Hills to Merrill to support Special Olympics. The students volunteer for the challenge and only those that can follow the strict training regimen and stay out of trouble get to make that final run. Training starts in March, with a gradual buildup until the students are ready to attempt the full distance. This year, five students were able to go off-grounds, and a couple more made the run within the Lincoln Hills fence.
"These are probably some of the best behaved youth I've taken running," said LHS recreation leader Barb Ament, who has made the run with the students for the past nine years.
Pedro, 16, was the first to finish. He said he could barely run one mile at the start of training.
"I was on the verge of quitting, but Barb kept on pushing," he said.
Pedro has been in corrections since 2010 and will be released in July. He said he's learned to relieve stress through running and plans to keep doing it when he gets home.
Jovon, 16, said the run was tiring, but good.
"I volunteered for the program because I wanted to see if I could challenge myself," he said.
Michael, 17, gutted out the last couple of miles despite having to walk at the end.
"I don't want to be a quitter in life, so why quit this?" he said. "It was long, hot and tough, but I pushed through it. If you put your mind to it, you can do anything."
For Kishon, 16, he'll be going home next month with a new outlook.
"If you've got good people motivating you, you can succeed," he said.
Santos, 17, said completing the 11-mile run was a thrill.
"I feel that I could do anything if I set my mind to it," he said.
Santos and Pedro are both in the military-style PRIDE program at LHS. Both will receive their high school equivalency degrees before their release. Santos said he also plans to go on to college.
The Lincoln County Sheriff's Department served as an escort for the runners all the way from Lincoln Hills to Normal Park.
The Torch Run at Lincoln Hills raises money through the sale of T-shirts to staff. This year, the total raised was $800, which will be donated to Special Olympics.