TAZEWELL, Va. — Mission accomplished.

Tazewell Middle School students started their day June 4 by running a mile for a good cause. Physical Education Teacher Tamara Wilson started Mission Mile 10 years ago to call attention to the battle against cancer and to raise funds for the local Relay for Life.

Wilson and other faculty members take an active role in the event’s development, but the students drive the project. They come up with the theme, make posters and hang them, mark the course, and plan and emcee the ceremony before the race.

This year’s theme Run Over Cancer or ROC was used on posters and banners and in the cheers and entertainment in the assembly before the race.

“We sell shirts and take donations and donate the money to the Cancer Society through Relay for Life,” Wilson said.

Before the start of the race the students presented a bouquet of roses to Paula Sparks, a teacher and coach battling breast cancer. Brent Anderson, a student and cancer patient was given a hat and Anderson’s Army was emblazoned on the T-shirts.

Cheerleaders gave the patients a big sendoff while students, some faculty and one reporter donned tennis shoes and set out on the Mission Mile. The starting line was almost a mob scene as participants awaited the whistle to start the race.

“They will run a lot harder for this than they do in phys ed,” Jeremy Call said.

Call, a physical education teacher at the school ran the event clock. He cautioned runners about tripping and falling before giving the go signal.

I had asked Principal Charity Hurst earlier in the week if I could join the fun. I strive to walk 10,000 steps or more each day, but I seldom actually run and wanted the challenge of a timed mile. 

“Want me to take a picture of you running it,” Melissa Thompson, a teacher, asked as I raced to catch up after taking a picture of the runners coming off the line.  My fast start fizzled and I wound up toward the back of the pack breathing hard.

After regaining my normal breathing pattern I took solace from the youngsters who thought it was a mile up and a mile back and struggled as badly as I did to cross the line in just over 13 minutes.

Abigail Rhudy beat Nick Taylor by one second 6:10 to 6:11 for first place. Taylor Nolley was second among the girls and third overall with a 6:16 time. T.J. Jarrett ran 6:55 and Trey Combs did 7:07 to claim second and third among the boys and Macie Alford was third in the girls’ race at 7:12. Emily Hinkle was the fastest faculty member at 11:17 followed by Dana Palmer and Jennifer Lowe.

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