SPRINGFIELD, Va. -- Months of afterschool running and training came down to this moment.
Lacing up running shoes and calming butterflies in their stomachs, the roughly 20 participants in the Girls on the Run program at Crestwood Elementary School in Springfield were getting set to run in the big GOTR 5K race at the Taste of Arlington, where 2,000 participants were gathered.
They made it early to the school, and waited for the Fairfax County school bus to transport them to the big event. There, they would show they could set a goal and cross the finish line.
But there was a stumbling block. The bus, slated to take the girls to the starting line before 10 a.m., was late. At one point, parents wondered what was going on.
There were anxious phone calls, and soon it became clear: the bus was a no-show.
"I was sad and disappointed that we couldn't run in the actual race," says Bebe Dunlap, 10.
As a compromise, the parents and girls decided to run the race right there at Crestwood; the idea, the parents reasoned, is to teach girls to be confident and self-reliant.
One parent raced to a store to pick up crepe-paper to serve as a finish line. Others laid out the 5K course and deployed water stations, just like the kind at the 5K in Arlington.
"This is a really great community of teachers and parents," says parent Barbara Herod. "When they finished, the parents were here to greet them. It was just really awesome how the community came together."
Creighton Dunlap, 11, looked at the bright side. "I was actually kind of happy because my buddy runner Miss Crummet told me there was no shade there" on the route in Arlington.
"I'm just happy that I ran that far!" Dunlap says of the Crestwood route.
Creighton and Bebe's mother, Katy Dunlap, was dissappointed that the bus didn't show, but "the more important thing was for them to have the chance to do the race this morning after they'd been training for a couple of months."
Still, the girls got to finish the 5K race with their ‘buddy runners.' In the Girls on the Run program, each girl is paired with a buddy runner. Bebe's running partner is Melissa Porfirio, a finalist for National Teacher of the Year.
"She's a wonderful teacher, [and] Crestwood is lucky to have her," Dunlap says, "and we're really glad she's Bebe's buddy runner. She's been a great inspiration for the girls over the years."
Meanwhile, at the Taste of Arlington where some 2,000 girls had run the 5K race, word spread of the snafu at Crestwood.
On the GOTR of Northern Virginia's Twitter feed, there was a "special shoutout to the Crestwood GOTR team for their amazing spirit!"
Katy Comerford, the executive director of GOTR of Northern Virginia, says it was unfortunate that the Crestwood girls couldn't get to the race, but said they'd shown real initiative.
GOTR is about much more than running, and the reaction of the Crestwood team was a tribute to the girls taking part, Comerford continues.
"I think this is a great example of how they build resiliency through this program," she says of the Crestwood team. "They were able to finish the program in their own way. We're so proud of them."
WTOP's Kate Ryan contributed to this report.
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