Howland cross country runners ask drivers to be cautious of stud - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Howland cross country runners ask drivers to be cautious of student athletes

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HOWLAND TWP., Ohio -

School may be out for the summer, but in Howland, several dozen student-athletes are hard at work. They're reaching out, hoping to share a warning to keep themselves, and athletes just like them, a little bit safer. 

"Between the girls, the boys, the high school, and the middle school there are probably about 60 to 65 kids on the road every day," says Howland High School girls' cross country coach Robin Kapalko. 

But when it comes to pounding the pavement, the teens are sharing the road with something much bigger, faster, and deadlier. 

"Obviously, there's just traffic everywhere," Kapalko said. 

To try to avoid the busiest roads in town, the teams run near H.C. Mines Elementary School. 

Senior cross country runner Alyssa Tarr said it comes down to the fact that doing laps on the track doesn't work for cross country runners.

"Doing laps is a lot different, especially for cross country. The conditioning you need, the miles you need to get in; there's really no place for us to go in Howland except for here," she said. 

Still, some teammates say they've had their fair share of scary experiences. 

"Cars like, they get mad, and they don't move out of the way. So we've had to jump into a ditch," said junior cross country runner, Gabby Reuschling. 

"I've tried to tell cars to slow down, and they come back, and they yell at me," said Kapalko. 

So now the team is sharing a warning to drivers around the Valley, hoping to keep themselves, and runners just like them safer. 

"Try and be as courteous as possible. These kids are out here trying to do the right thing. Trying to live an active and healthy lifestyle," Kapalko said.  "I mean, they're very committed. They're here every morning at 7:00 - 7:15. That's dedication. So if they could just cut them a little bit of slack, remember they're kids, and give them just a few feet."

Aside from moving over and allowing runners ample space, Kapalko says drivers should try to follow the speed limit and slow down when passing runners. 

"Even though sometimes they're going the speed limit, the speed limit is always not the safest speed for the conditions with kids on the road," she explained. 

"I drive too, so as a driver if you see a runner, you're scared because you don't want to hit them. But a lot of cars stop completely, and that can cause an accident with other cars," said Tarr. 

Kapalko also says it's important to be vigilant and watch for runners along the roadways. "I mean, cars have blind spots. And you know, if you see one of these, there's a lot of kids out there together, so when you see one,  you're going to see a bunch more coming. So be vigilant and pay attention."

A major concern of the team are drivers who are on their cell phones while passing the runners. 

"It's scary to look up and see a car, but also to see that they're not 100 percent there," said Reuschling. 

"A lot of times I feel like it's the adults that hold the phone in one hand and then they're driving with the other. And it just seems like they're kind of distracted or they're talking on the phone which can be a lot," she continued. 

Kapalko said that part of the responsibility falls to the adults behind the wheel. "Make sure you're watching the road. And, remember, they're kids and sometimes they don't always follow all the rules and be aware that they could dart out in front."

But there are plenty of things that runners, whether high school athletes or otherwise, can do to stay safe on the road. 

"Always runs toward traffic, make sure you double and triple check before you cross, assume that they don't see you," Kapalko said. 

Reuschling echoed the sentiment saying, "Just realize that you're a lot smaller than the car and even though they should see you sometimes they don't and just to be cautious in that sense." 

Kapalko also advised against wearing headphones during a run that takes place on the road. 

"We need to hear what's coming, what's going on around us," she explained. 

She said it is a good idea to run with a partner, but if you must go out alone, make sure that someone knows the route you will take, and then stick to it. 

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