When Meredith Middle School ran in the first cross-country meet of the season last week, one Husky harrier literally ran out of shoes that were much too big. Another had a blowout when a flapping sole tore loose. Cross-country is grueling under optimal conditions. Without proper shoes, it’s downright punishing.

One of the coaches, Kris Stoebner, who teaches language arts at Meredith, posted on social media about the plight of the ill-equipped runners and her plea for help quickly gained traction.

By Monday afternoon the school had collected donations of some 200 pairs of shoes, including several from Trinh Coulter, a Meredith alum who was reminded of how she was teased long ago for the tattered shoes she wore to basketball practice because that was all her family, emigrated from Viet Nam, could afford at the time.

“Thanks for giving me the opportunity to bless another student because, in more ways than one, I have been in their shoes,” she posted in response to Stoebner’s SOS.

Regina Montgomery got wind of the situation, too. She and her husband Bob do lots of good work with Shoes That Fit, a nationwide nonprofit with ties to Medicom that has provided hundreds of pairs of new shoes to DMPS kids in need over the years.

Regina knows Meredith AmeriCorps worker Ashlie Coady and Jill Dykstra, another teacher at the school. She contacted them and got Shoes That Fit involved.

All of which led to a rather surprising practice run for the Meredith boys’ and girls’ squads after school on Monday.

Coaches Stoebner, Caitlin Floro (math teacher) and Tara Stemsrud (PE) gathered the teams to pass out new t-shirts before heading outside to loosen up and go on a run. But they didn’t tell them the route would lead to Famous Footwear on Merle Hay Road where everybody would be pit-stopping to select a new pair of running shoes, courtesy of Shoes That Fit.

That took away whatever breath the kids had left after running from school to the store. They clapped at the news, shouted out thank yous, high-fived and headed inside for flashy new treads. Most of them were laced up and worn out of the store for the rest of the practice run. That would be the only chance to break them in for Tuesday’s meet at Valley Southwoods, where the Meredith teams promise to at least feel a little more fleet-footed.

As for the hundreds of other donated pairs still coming in back at headquarters, no worries. At a school with a large population of refugee and immigrant students, it’s not only the cross-country teams that are in need of suitable shoes. There will soon be more bounce in lots of the steps filling the hallways at Meredith.

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