Lead Story Sports West Edition

Elementary school students learn fitness from Olympians

LOS ANGELES — It’s pretty cool to have an international star athlete pay a visit to your school. It’s downright awesome if you can get more than one world-class athlete to show up and hang out with you while you’re getting your exercise in.

The students at Trinity Street Elementary School looked like they were having the times of their young lives when Olympic star Rosalyn Bryant (now Rosalyn Clark) and Paralympic gold medal winner Breanna Clark made their way to the playground on a brisk December morning to help them participate in some physical fitness activity.

The goal, like all the visits that the mother and daughter engage in, is to bring more awareness of the importance of moving, eating right and enduring physical activity. Bryant and Clark are just two of the vessels that bring that message from the Ready, Set, Gold! program, which is in 55 schools around the city of Los Angeles. The mother and daughter tandem worked in sports.

Bryant competed and won a silver medal in the 4 by 400 meter relay at the 1976 Olympics. For four straight years, Bryant (1976, 1977, 1978, 1979) was the top U.S. 400 meter female runner in the country. She was also America’s No.1 in that race in 1983, according to Track & Field News.

Forty years after her mother found Olympic glory in Montreal, Clark stamped her own name on the international scene when she became the 2016 Paralympics 400-meter champion.

Trinity Street Elementary School Principal Jorge Villalobos said Ready, Set, Gold! has been instrumental in helping increase the rates of student participation.

“The Ready, Set, Gold! program … I wasn’t here when it was established; the principal prior was the one that established the program, but we’ve noticed the increase in the participation,” Villalobos said. “We have a runner’s club in the afternoon. We have about 150 kids that stay after school in the runner’s club and do that Monday through Friday.

“A lot of that has to do with the motivation that the Olympians give the kids.”

Villalobos seemed to get motivated himself on this particular day as he jumped rope, ran through cones and did other drills that his students participated in. Bryant and Clark are hoping their stature as world-class track and field athletes will have some kind of positive affect on the students they visit with through Ready, Set, Gold!

For Bryant, this sort of thing is old hat for her. She has been a longtime advocate for youth wellness and has been a part of Ready, Set, Gold! for quite some time.

“I started when it first started,” Bryant said. “I’ve been with the program since it first started 10 years ago.”

Bryant, who now works for the Los Angeles Police Department, said that extra push for students to be more wellness-conscious is essential.

“It’s amazing because these kids need it, especially these days,” Bryant said. “They need people talking to them about health, about good nutrition, about staying in shape, because all of it goes hand-in-hand to become a healthy adult, and to keep it going as life continues.”

Clark, who is autistic, said the mission for what she and her mother are working to achieve is pretty straight forward.

“My experience is brand new and wonderful,” Clark said. “The joy I get is telling them about nutrition, about health, also about staying in shape.”

Bryant, who served as Clark’s coach up to the Paralympics, has a special of her own in that she is certainly proud of what her daughter has been able to achieve, despite the hurdles that laid in front of her.

“It’s very exciting to have my daughter be an Olympian, especially seeing that she has autism,” Bryant said. “This is something I could never have dreamed of, I could never imagine it. So, for it to be taking place, it’s just super.”