Kate Keenan run

Participants in this year’s Kate Keenan Memorial Mile Run will start individually rather than en masse like they have for years, including in 2019. But when the event begins Monday morning at 9 a.m., it signals some return to normalcy and a definite win for a class whose plans were otherwise upended.

 

So many school traditions this year have gone away or been diminished in the shadow of the pandemic, yet one important rite of passage for Basalt Middle School students remains intact.

The Kate Keenan Memorial Mile Run, which also serves as a continuation for Basalt Middle School eighth-graders as they move on to high school, will go on today with adaptations to satisfy social distancing and health requirements. The memorial run honoring Keenan, a fifth-grade student who died in 2003, begins at 9 a.m. and continues until 11:30 a.m.

Instead of starting the run en masse as in the past, the students will begin individually and one minute apart. At the run’s completion, the group photo will be a collection of individual pictures instead. The route starts at the middle school and ends at Basalt High School. From a social distance, the public is encouraged to cheer the runners along the way .

Principal Jennifer Ellsperman said more than 90% of the eighth-graders said they planned to participate in the event.

“I think that is great since they will not be able to run in a group of 120 students as in the past,” Ellsperman said.

“So many people are having to let go of special traditions this year with graduations from high school and college so we are glad we can at least keep this tradition in a social distancing way that allows kids to close out their middle-school years in a celebratory way,” she said.

“Until we started to brainstorm and get feedback from the Basalt Police Department and town of Basalt, I really assumed the run would have to be canceled,” Ellsperman added.

Eighth-grade teacher and track coach Melissa Goodman said when the school left early for spring break because of the pandemic, “We had to cancel the beloved (and incredibly silly) teacher-student basketball game. This was the beginning of the loss our eighth-graders would eventually feel.

“All of the activities that make graduating from middle school to high school meaningful, suddenly became uncertain. Much of their everyday life had suddenly become uncertain,” she said.

“It’s definitely a rite of passage. These students are not just graduating from our middle school, but continuing on to the high school for the next chapter of their lives. We can only hope that as a school and a collection of amazing teachers that we have prepared them for the next four years and we send them off with love and support,” Goodman added.

Basalt Middle School spokeswoman Allison Johnson said the school’s continuation ceremony starts that evening at 5:30 p.m. with a slideshow and an online Facebook live continuation ceremony.

Principal Ellsperman said in weighing how to retain the run, the school collectively worked to consider how it could be safe and meaningful for students, families and staff. “That meant working with our district, our nurses, town and county health officials and parents to figure out a way it could work,” she said.

Melissa Goodman has a daughter in the eighth grade and said she has watched this class grow up from the first grade.

“I felt much of the same excitement they have for their eighth-grade year and the celebrations that follow it,” she said.

“Socially, the pandemic threw them into isolation, something which many of them aren’t used to. Emotionally, they’ve been dealing with the lack of one-on-one time with classmates and teachers. But the overall loss of commencement activities and what is considered the norm (and exciting activities that they’ve waited years and years to partake in) has left many of them dealing with the feelings of loss and sadness. Never have I heard so many students say that they just wish they could go back to school.

“The win of getting to hold the Katie Keenan run is giving them just a little bit of normalcy in a world that has been turned upside down,” she said.

Madeleine Osberger is a Contributing Editor for Aspen Daily News. She can be reached at madski@aspendailynews.com or on Twitter @Madski99