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When Pingry transitioned to remote learning in March, it meant not only no on-campus P.E. classes, but the unfortunate cancellation of spring interscholastic athletics. However, for Director of Middle School Athletics Mr. Gerry Vanasse P '14, '20, the unprecedented scenario presented an opportunity to get creative and keep Middle School students active. He proposed students participate in "The Amazing Race Across America" (ARAA), a virtual competition that engaged Middle School students from six independent schools in the area—Pingry, Morristown-Beard, Kent Place, Newark Academy, Peck, and Far Hills Country Day School. Students "raced" for 6,150 miles, from Teaneck, N.J., where Route 80 begins, to the San Francisco Bay Bridge, south to Los Angeles on Route 101, and back home again on Route 66 and Route 80.
The ARAA works by counting every 10 minutes of "vigorous" exercise—running, resistance training, biking, etcetera—and every 15 minutes of "non-vigorous" exercises—light walking, recreational biking, etcetera—as one mile. Pingry fielded three separate teams, and students could monitor their progress as school seals representing each team, including teams in other schools, were placed accordingly on a digital map. For highlights of the ARAA, check out a recent WPAC broadcast created by Pingry Middle School students.
Hear firsthand from two Middle School students about their ARAA experiences:
Nataly Ruiz '25
When I first heard of the Amazing Race Across America (ARAA) challenge, I thought the timing could not have been more perfect. It would be a welcomed distraction, as being confined to my home during COVID-19 was a big adjustment for me. I'm competitive by nature and thrive on pushing myself outside of my comfort zone, so I signed up.
At first, I was daunted by the 5,770 miles it would take to reach San Francisco and then return to Pingry. But, I was excited to take on this challenge. I decided to make my way across Route 80 by doing Zumba, jogging, and biking. I found the list of approved exercises varied and fun. However, my favorite way to earn points was by jumping rope. In my younger years, I was a competitive jump roper, so going outside to jump rope to help my team earn miles brought back good memories.
Although the goal was to earn miles for my team, I soon realized that it felt great to exercise every day. After doing exercise, my mind was cleared and my stress disappeared. I was better able to focus my attention on my school work, plan more efficiently, and stay positive during this pandemic.
Often, exercise requires motivation and is not always fun to do alone. It is hard to motivate yourself to go out and do things if you don't have a team relying on you to show up and do your best. Competing alongside other teams helped to keep my motivation high. Having this competition helped me not only physically, but mentally. I felt motivated, competitive, and most of all, I had fun. Good and healthy competition has many positive attributes. It helps a person stay alert, stay strong, and most importantly, inspires you to persevere.
Ultimately, I learned that a virus, smaller than a grain of sand, has the power to affect millions of people around the world. It has disrupted our daily lives and caused many to feel isolated and alone. Even though it's very powerful, it can't restrain us Pingrians from doing great things, including booking a round-trip "vacation" to San Francisco.
James Kotsen '25
I joined the ARAA for two reasons: One reason I joined ARAA was I believed it would be a great opportunity to reconnect with the Pingry Middle School community. I never thought I would say this, but I miss going to school. I miss spending time with my classmates and talking in person. Joining ARAA was a way for me to feel connected to Pingry again. Another reason I joined ARAA was because I wanted to stay in physical shape. Due to the lock-down with Covid-19, I am not able to play competitive lacrosse this spring or squash at all since all the courts are closed. The ARAA was a way for me to get outside and exercise.
The ARAA also encourages me to get outside and exercise. I have been doing a lot of mountain biking in my local park and also going for long walks and runs. Unfortunately, I can not play squash because the gym is closed, so I am using that time to get outside.
I also have been practicing my lacrosse footwork and stickwork, so that my skills will remain strong for the 2021 Middle School lacrosse season. Mr. Webster [Head Coach of the Boys' Varsity Lacrosse Team and Middle School History Teacher] sent out videos of former Pingry lacrosse players teaching specific skills and they have been very helpful for getting better.
My favorite part about the ARAA is that it is not only Pingry Middle School teams that are competing, but also other schools including Newark Academy and Far Hills. My neighbor is on the Newark Academy ARAA team and when I see him running it encourages me to get out and do the same. It has also been fun to compete with friends from school on other teams to see who can complete more miles.
Contact: Dina Glasofer, Communications and Admission Associate