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Focus is on Fitness for Students at Honda Center

The Ducks welcomed 1,400 fifth grade students from 14 local schools in the fifth annual Captain's Challenge Fit Finals

by Jenelyn Russo / Special to AnaheimDucks.com

The focus at Honda Center was on fitness as the Ducks welcomed 1,400 fifth grade students from 14 local schools as they ran, stretched and reached their personal best in the fifth annual Captain's Challenge Fit Finals.

An initiative of the Anaheim Ducks S.C.O.R.E. (Scholastic Curriculum of Recreation and Education) program, the Captain's Challenge is a physical education curriculum that serves to motivate fifth graders through fun, physical activities as they prepare for the California Physical Fitness Test.

The program is offered free to participating schools through the Anaheim Ducks Foundation and begins with a 30-day, in-class workbook that presents healthy nutrition choices along with fitness exercises that the kids complete in preparation for their state required physical fitness testing.

Additionally, the curriculum introduces character traits centered around what it takes to be a leader or a "captain," such as perseverance, accountability and integrity. Students each receive the opportunity to wear the "C" for the day as "class captain," while leading their classmates through the workbook and exercises.

Jamie Rose, a fifth grade teacher at Nohl Canyon Elementary in Anaheim, has been using the Captain's Challenge curriculum since January in preparation for the Fit Finals by incorporating the "game time" exercises into their daily morning PE class.

"They love it," Rose said. "We have a new captain each day and the students get up there and run the entire thing. They love being in charge. They're beyond prepared for this event, and they're so excited to come here today."

As a school that initially piloted the program, Rose is grateful to have been involved with the Captain's Challenge since its inception and has worked closely with the Ducks to help shape and refine the program so it best meets their needs.

"They were so interested in hearing our thoughts," Rose said. "A lot of the feedback we've given over the years has been integrated. I would definitely have to say that out of all of the organizations in Orange County, the Ducks are the most supportive."

More than 4,000 students across 180 classrooms participated in the workbook curriculum, with 1,400 of those fifth graders attending the Fit Finals. While at Honda Center, the kids put their practice to the test, completing each of the five assessments that make up the California Physical Fitness test, including push-ups, sit-ups, trunk lifts, the sit-and-reach, and the one-mile run.

The morning of fitness was kicked off with a visit by Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf, who spoke with the kids about the characteristics and importance of leadership. After leading the students through some warm-up stretches, Getzlaf encouraged the participants to have fun and focus on achieving their personal best.

More than 250 volunteers were on hand to help record the students' testing results, including members of the Anaheim Ducks Die Hards booster club, Target, University of LaVerne, Cal State Fullerton and University of California, Irvine. The students each wore a runners bib that electronically recorded their one-mile run times, and all documented results from each of the assessments were forwarded to the participating schools.

Fifth grade teacher Ed Hwang from Meairs Elementary in Garden Grove has also been using the Captain's Challenge program for the last five years and each year, his students come to the Fit Finals more than ready to participate.

"The curriculum does a tremendous job of preparing them physically," Hwang said. "And it also reinforces the character traits of the captain that we introduce in the classroom.

"When they come here to Honda Center, it's kind of a life-changing experience for them," Hwang continued. "They think we do all these things in isolation. But when they see all of these community members come together to support them and encourage them in their development as young leaders, it really shows the kids that this is important."

One of Hwang's students, 11-year old Thy Nguyen from Westminster, looks at PE class differently after having gone through the Captain's Challenge program.

"I think it's fun," Nguyen said. "I learned that I'm more flexible than I thought I was. And I like running now."

Nohl Canyon Elementary fifth grader Jack Dragovich put his captain's skills to work when he noticed his classmate, Shaun Ray, was struggling as they headed toward the finish line of the one-mile run.

"At the end, I could see Shaun was cramping really bad, so I just told him to push through it," Jack said.

Fellow Nohl Canyon fifth graders, Brody Metz and Hunter Rose, both enjoyed how the Captain's Challenge workbook made fitness fun, and they couldn't wait for the chance to be at Honda Center.

"We learned how to become a captain, and we learned a lot about fitness," Brody said. "It feels exciting that I'm here doing the fitness challenge where the Ducks play. It's pretty fun."

"I learned a lot of stuff," Hunter said. "I learned it's important to eat good, healthy food. And I learned how to be a captain, things like always be nice to your friends and stand up for them when they need you. I've had a fun time."

After completing the assessments, the students took part in a celebration expo, where representatives from Microsoft, Kind Bar and Republic Services were in attendance to provide supplemental information in support of the program. And for those wanting to play some street hockey, staff members from The Rinks were on hand hosting pickup games for the kids.

The high-energy day concluded with closing ceremonies, where the kids were applauded for their hard work and prizes were raffled off, including shoes from New Balance, Target gift cards, and Anaheim Ducks signed memorabilia.

As an educator, Hwang feels that much of what the kids learn through Captain's Challenge not only benefits them physically, but carries over into strengthening their academics. He and his colleagues are grateful for the Ducks' support.

"We are so thankful for all the energy the Ducks pour into the schools," Hwang said. "They're introducing hockey, but not just the sport of hockey. It's all of the things that go along with playing an organized sport. It's amazing that the Ducks organization is willing to put so much emphasis into improving the environment of the communities that they serve."

For more information on Captain's Challenge and the Anaheim Ducks S.C.O.R.E. Program, visit ducksscore.com.

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