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    International students train, compete in cross-country around the world

    International students train, compete in cross-country around the world

    Photo By Sgt. Fenton Reese | Hussein Abu Alia, Falcons Cross-country team member with the Bahrain School, runs the...... read more read more



    Story by Cpl. Fenton Reese 

    Task Force 51/5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade

    NAVAL SUPPORT ACTIVITY, Bahrain – Students of Marines and sailors stationed here, as well as foreign national students receive rigorous academic, character, cultural and physical training through a demanding, inter-mural cross-country running program at the Bahrain School.

    Marine Corps Forces Central Command Forward’s Assistant Chief of Staff, Communications Officer, LtCol Jason Perdew, volunteers to coach at the relatively young running program making a difference in the lives of the young athletes.

    “Running long distance takes willpower, focus and guts,” said Perdew. “I believe cross-country is the hardest sport a kid can do in high school.”

    According to Perdew, participants benefit from the program by gaining leadership attributes, cultural appreciation, as well as physical prowess in just a few months time, and it is a very worthwhile experience.

    Cross-country is a physically demanding sport; however, the Kingdom of Bahrain provides an additional obstacle to the students’ training, the heat and humidity. Through the summer months with temperatures reaching on average from 100-120 degrees, this small island in the heart of the Middle East is unlike many other training venues afforded to other Department of Defense Dependents Schools (DoDD) cross-country teams.

    “Training in Bahrain is just plain hard,” said Perdew, who contributes his Marine Corps conditioning, athleticism, running experience and training tips to the students four to five days per week.

    “It’s tough at first, but you can get use to it. As the weather gets cooler, the kids will be able to push themselves harder,” he added. “This will help them get ready for their competitions in other countries. And, when the Falcons race in the (DoDD) Schools, European Cross-country Championship in Baumholder, Germany, the temperature could be below 50 degrees. But training in the Bahrain heat has made our kids tough; they'll feel like supermen and women in lower temperatures.”

    Falcons Cross-country head coach and DoD teacher Shannon Helvey says that along with the extreme training environment in the Middle East, the students submit to a near military regimen which builds discipline, strength and, of course, endurance. These attributes, she highlights, are also life-long benefits for each student to obtain.

    “Running teaches them to push through challenges and to strive for goals they set for themselves,” said Helvey. “Team sports are often a little harder to continue through college and beyond unless you're one of the top players, but running is something that anyone can do, anywhere.”

    Another benefit to the program is the face-to-face interaction and exposure to diverse cultures, regional peculiarities and languages from many different countries. “We have kids from several countries like Bahrain, Jordan, Denmark, and France on the team. Most people see running as an individual sport, but cross-country is different; it's a team sport,” said Perdew. “In order for the team to win, they have to work together and push each other to run their best. Here, it doesn't matter where they came from as long as they are willing to run hard for the team.”

    This team has competed against and fostered relationships with cross-country teams from other local Bahrain schools including British, French and private schools which also have various nationalities of students on their teams.

    Hussein Abu Alia, a Jordanian raised in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), is a recent transfer to the Bahrain school and cross-country athlete who appreciates the running program. Attending the Bahrain school allows him to stay close to home and his family who remain in Saudi Arabia, a neighboring country.

    “The mentality of students here at the Bahrain School is very similar to the students at the schools I [previously] attended, very motivating.”

    The running team also participates in island competitions hosted throughout the Kingdom of Bahrain by the Bahrain Road Runners (BRR) organization. BRR annually organizes races such as marathons, half marathons, triathlons, decathlons, biathlons and other races to bring Bahrain communities and people together for the benefit of life and morale.

    According to Perdew’s daughter Abigail, a Bahrain school student and running program participant, BRR is “…a good place to make friends. The local runners thought it was really cool that we came out to run with them.”

    She added that running is a fun way to stay in shape, stay healthy and prepare for future life challenges.

    “It’s really painful, and you get real tired but you just feel so good at the end.” Abigail, 17, is a cross-country team leader and was recently accepted into the United States Naval Academy.

    Dylan Jensen, 16, agrees with his teammate. Dylan is another team leader who has participated in cross-country competitively since middle school and aspires to continue in the sport long-term.

    “[Cross-country] definitely wakes you up in the morning,” he adds after an early morning run with teammates. “You truly build good endurance and focus.”

    From culture to calf muscles these students can brag of the versatile benefits this sport provides. Perdew adds that the team’s camaraderie, motivation and drive is close-knit such as a cohesive military unit in the Marine Corps. “They are willing to work hard day after day. They remind me of young Marines,” Perdew added. “That's why I love working with them.”

    Cross-country at the Bahrain school is open to any high school and middle school student interested and completes a standard medical physical. For more information visit the program’s website at



    Date Taken: 10.10.2012
    Date Posted: 10.10.2012 09:43
    Story ID: 95931

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