Parks’ first ‘athletic coordinator’ getting programs, people running

June 21, 2013

By DAVE SCHULTZ

There is a movement afoot to get more feet and other body parts moving.
The Bluffton Parks and Recreation Department hired Laurie Baumgartner as a part-time employee in May 2012 and gave her the title athletic coordinator. Evidence of her efforts dot the Parks Department’s upcoming calendar:
• A “Soggy Jog” mud run for kids on June 29, an obstacle course through a wooded area behind the Wells Community Swimming Pool.
• An adult triathlon (400-meter swim, 10-mile bike ride, and 3.1-mile run) on Aug. 3.
• The second annual Harvest Hustle 5-kilometer run on Sept. 21.
• The second annual December Dash 5K on December 7.
Earlier this year, in February, some 150 runners participated in the Chilly Chili Run at the Ouabache State Park. Earlier this month, a women-only Chicks Run was held, with participants going back and forth on the Rivergreenway. A bike ride, twice delayed by weather, was also held in early June.
That’s just a start.
“We have events that seem to be taking off,” Baumgartner said during an interview at City Hall.
The Bluffton Parks and Recreation Department also sponsored the National Football League-themed Punt, Pass, and Kick contest last fall and a Major League Baseball-linked Pitch, Hit, and Run competition this spring.
Baumgartner has a background in organizing these kind of activities. She organized road races in Dallas, Texas, including the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure which had 30,000 participants. She also helped out with Walk for the Whisper, a race of 5,000 runners that benefitted the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition.
Closer to home, she also coached track at Bluffton Middle School.
She’s looking for unique things — not just for athletes, but things everyone can do. When she organized the Chicks Run, for instance, she wanted it to be fun for everyone — so there were prizes for wackiest running outfit and largest team and best team name. For the truly competitive, however, there was an award for fastest mother-daughter team.
“We want to maybe have some new events that people will find more accessible,” she said. Maybe a Zumba or yoga class, “or a boot camp for adults,” she said. Perhaps a geocache race could be put together or something more with bike rides.
“We’d also like to find a use for Lancaster Park,” she said. “Some people have suggested that we might put in a cross-country course there.” υ

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