A Summer for Running at Daycroft Montessori School

Daycroft Teacher Mandi Tuite Runs Ultra-Marathon in Oregon, and Inspires Students in School’s Run Club to Discover Their Own Love for Distance Running

ANN ARBOR, MI (September 14, 2009) – This past summer, Mandi Tuite, a third-and-fourth-grade math and science at Daycroft Montessori School of Ann Arbor, took her passion for running to new heights and lengths – literally.

mandi tuiteOn August 28 and 29, as part of a team sponsored by the Puma athletic gear company, the 28-year-old Tuite competed in the annual Hood to Coast Relay, an ultra-marathon that began at the Timberline Lodge on the face of Oregon’s Mount Hood and descended 197 miles through several Oregon cities including Portland and Astoria.

Just over a thousand teams of 12 members each – over 12,000 runners in total – participated in the 2009 race. Its finish line was on the sweeping, sandy, boulder-strewn shores of the picturesque oceanfront resort town of Seaside, Oregon.

“Such a beautiful course!” says Tuite, a South Lyon resident and an avid runner since her pre-teen years. “I’ve seen some amazing things on my feet, that’s for sure.”

mandi tuiteMandi Tuite completed her first ultra-marathon, a 50-mile event run in Manistee, MI, in September 2008. After the race, she showed this “good luck” poster made for her by her Daycroft students to inspire her. Tuite’s finishing time was 9 hours, 24 minutes. She placed fourth among females in the race.

Yet it was no less the season of running for ten determined Daycroft students who, as charter members of the school’s Run Club, trained for 12 weeks under Tuite’s tutelage during Elementary Summer Camp at Daycroft’s Zeeb Road campus.

There were no ultra-marathons for these rookie runners, of course. Their training stuck to lesser distances more suited to the students’ young ages.

mandi tuiteDaycroft’s Run Club, under the tutelage of Mandi Tuite, trained for a youth-appropriate version of a full marathon by running one mile per week for 25 weeks during the 2008-09 school year, then ran the last 1.2 miles of the 26.2-mile total at the Mini Martian Marathon in Dearborn, MI last April. Tuite is at left, dressed in black; Daycroft student Taylor Thompson is the young runner dressed in pink.

The program culminated in all ten students participating in The Great Train Race, a 5K walk/run at the Heritage Festival in Ypsilanti’s Depot Town on Saturday, August 23. The student’s times to complete the race ranged from 27 to 43 minutes.

Per Tuite, “I was so proud of the kids. But I must say, I may have gained as much from the experience as they did. My racing results this summer qualified me for next spring’s Boston Marathon – the premier distance running event in the country. I told the kids it was their encouragement and inspiration that helped me do it.”

mandi tuiteDaycroft’s Run Club members from this year’s Elementary Summer Camp are seen here huddling with coach Mandi Tuite just before running The Great Train Race, a 5K walk/run event, at Ypsilanti’s Heritage Festival on August 23.

A Health Scare – and a Resolute Return to Running

Tuite traces her love for running to her middle school and high school years in the Plymouth/Canton Community Schools district, where she competed on the track and cross-country teams. In 2000, while in college at Madonna University in Livonia, friends encouraged her to try her first marathon.

The big leap in distance made for a grueling training regimen, but it also stoked Tuite’s competitive fire. Since that time, her running has steadily increased in ambition and accomplishments. Just in the past few years, she has run six marathons, two half-marathons, two 50K ultra-marathons, a 50-mile ultra-marathon, and numerous relays, in addition to the Hood to Coast Relay last month.

A serious health scare two years ago temporarily took Tuite off the track. She was diagnosed with a very early stage of cervical cancer. Fortunately, Tuite was spared chemotherapy and radiation; her doctors were able to get the cancer into remission with medicine and careful monitoring. She is perfectly healthy now.

Yet the cancer diagnosis and treatment came at a time of other transitions in Tuite’s life. “It was just one more thing,” as she puts it. Not surprisingly, the experience took a mental as well as physical toll.

Running helped Tuite get through it all, and emerge stronger for it. When her doctors cleared her to resume running, Tuite vowed to run at least one race of at least 5K in distance per month, and she began focusing her running on races with charitable aims. These have included the Shamrocks and Shenanigans race benefiting the Congenital Heart Center at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, and the Big House Big Heart run, which raises funds for many kinds of medical research at the University of Michigan.

Tuite’s comeback from cancer treatment, and her resulting determination to use her running for good causes, contributed to her selection as 2007 Athlete of the Year from Michigan Sports & Fitness magazine (now called Outdoor Athlete).

She was also a perfect choice for the Puma-sponsored team in the Hood to Coast Relay. Altogether, the race’s sponsors raised over $350,000 for the American Cancer Society.

mandi tuiteMandi Tuite, third from left in sunglasses, poses with fellow members of the Puma-sponsored team, plus others, at Oregon’s historic oceanfront Haystack Rock, near the finish line for the 2009 Hood to Coast Relay.

Running’s Benefits Inside and Outside the Classroom

Daycroft’s Run Club, initiated at Summer Camp, will carry on while school is in session this year, with Tuite as the students’ coach. By early this month, 15 students had signed up to take part for the 2009-10 school year. They will run one mile per week for 25 weeks, then run a final 1.2 miles in the annual Martian Marathon on the scenic, rolling, and twisting Edward Hines Drive in western Wayne County next April.

“Each student will thus have run a total of 26.2 miles – the distance of a full marathon,” says Tuite.

mandi tuiteMandi Tuite and her boyfriend Ryan Peltzke, a fellow member of the Puma-sponsored team in the 2009 Hood to Coast Relay, posed for this snapshot near the race’s starting line on the face of Oregon’s Mt. Hood. The event was a 197-mile ultra-marathon run by over 1,000 teams of 12 members each on August 28-29. The Puma team’s first runner began by descending 2,000 feet from this point.

Tuite’s teaching and coaching extend beyond the grounds of Daycroft Montessori School. For example, she continues to train participants in the Big House Big Heart race. She does this in association with Running Fit, a leading area retailer of running apparel, which co-sponsors the annual event at Michigan Stadium.

“The great thing about what I do,” says Tuite, “is that I get to work with people of practically every age and background. My students range from elementary school kids at Daycroft to senior citizens still striving to push their limits on the running track.”

The physical and mental rewards of the running life help drive Tuite’s success in the Daycroft classroom. “Running is where I go to clear my head and collect my thoughts,” she says. “I can’t tell you how many educational units I’ve mapped out and how many lesson plans I’ve improved while running.”

About Daycroft Montessori School

Daycroft Montessori School is one of Washtenaw County’s leading independent schools. It began as a preschool program in 1968. Since then, Daycroft has grown to include a full-day kindergarten program, an elementary school program through 6th grade, before-school and after-school care, summer camp programs, and enrichment classes.

Daycroft Elementary School (grades K through 6) and Daycroft’s administrative offices are located at 1095 N. Zeeb Rd., Ann Arbor, MI 48103. Phone: (734) 662-3335.

Daycroft Preprimary School (preschool and kindergarten) is at 100 E. Oakbrook Dr., Ann Arbor, MI 48104. Phone: (734) 930-0333.

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Media Contact:
Chris Kochmanski
DesignHub, Inc.
(734) 944-8705
chris@design-hub.com

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