The Geist 5K has had a tremendously positive impact on many who live in our community. One such example is AJ Brisben. As an eight year old running in the Geist 5K with his family, AJ received positive encouragement for being a runner. Finishing in the Top 100 the past two years has made him realize that he’s good at the sport.
So good that this summer, AJ qualified and competed in his age bracket in the Junior Olympics. Earlier in the year, AJ had joined Fishers Fire, a local track and cross country club. Fishers Fire is one of a few in central Indiana for kids ages 6-18. “The club is well-run, the kids are great, and all are driven and competitive,” said AJ’s mom, Laura. “I can’t say enough about Coach Norris, Coach Collesano and Fishers Fire.”
Laura Brisben is a former Lawrence Central assistant track and cross country coach who now coaches at Holy Cross Lutheran School, where AJ is a sixth grader. “Running is something that we share as a family. It has been exciting to see AJ pick up on it and excel at distance running,” said Laura. Four years ago, she started a running club at Holy Cross because the school was too new for team sports. The club has been used as a platform to promote exercise, and has succeeded in getting kids to love running. The club has been instrumental in encouraging kids to join the track and cross country teams. “We owe a lot to the Geist 5K for building our first sport,” said Laura. The Holy Cross school theme is to ‘Run and bring Glory2God4Ever’. At Holy Cross, the coaches are pleased that so many of their runners, even kindergarteners, finish the Geist 5K.
Governed by USA Track & Field (USATF), the Indiana Youth Track Association oversees area clubs and meets/competitions. The USATF has 16 regions for the US. Indiana and Illinois make up Region 7. Those kids who placed in the top 5 in their regional event qualified for the National Junior Olympics, held this year in Greensboro, NC. Several of AJ’s teammates from Fishers Fire also qualified for the Junior Olympics, as did many of Indiana’s top high school champions. “It was an eye-opening experience,” according to Laura. “Seeing what is required to compete at the top at this level is astounding. The kids from the southern states do quite well.”
Based on his times, AJ finished where he expected to, and is now motivated to improve. “After the meet, AJ began doing research on the stats and locations of where the top finishers in his events live. To participate in nationals at his age is incredible. We strive to keep it fun,” said Laura.
The sport is growing, and it is exciting to see so many kids taking an interest in running. AJ is certainly motivated. “I’m just excited to start up again with Fishers Fire CC in September!” he said.