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City Heights Youth Running Group Sets Personal Record With 5K

Runners participating in the 5th Annual City Heights Runners' 5K take off fro...

Credit: City Heights Runners

Above: Runners participating in the 5th Annual City Heights Runners' 5K take off from the start line at North Chollas Lake Community Park, Feb. 25, 2017.

The group that supports many low-income and immigrant students in City Heights had its most successful fundraiser yet, but still needs more funding to cover an-out-of-town trip.

An annual 5K fundraiser for a youth running and mentorship program in San Diego's City Heights neighborhood generated more money than expected. The weekend event for City Heights Runners netted the organization more than $14,000 — about $1,000 more than planned.

City Heights Runners Program Coordinator Rachel Venancio said the race was the group's most successful 5K fundraiser to date. Venancio said the financial boost provided by business sponsorships, race registration fees, T-shirt sales and additional donations will help bridge a gap in funding after more kids than anticipated signed up for the year-round training program. The initiative, which is supported by UrbanLife Ministries, provides coaching, transportation and additional assistance to more than 75 middle and high school students in City Heights.

"[With] more kids, we need to buy more running shoes for them, more food, drive more vehicles to get them to the park," Venancio said in a phone interview.

RELATED: City Heights Running Club Supports Students On And Off The Track

The program offers off-season training to track and cross country team members at Hoover and Crawford high schools. It also coaches students at Wilson Middle School, which doesn't have a running team.

Wilson Physical Education instructor Ian Lawler said City Heights Runners helps students with more than their physical performance.

"Cardiovascular activity has been proven to improve academic performance. They've done studies on this," said Lawler, who has taught at Wilson for more than a decade. "It really helps you sleep better. It helps expand your mind. It helps clear your thoughts so you're more alert."

He estimated 20 or more students who joined the program in middle school have gone on the run competitively in college.

MORE: Photos From The Fifth Annual City Heights Runners' 5K

Despite the successful 5K fundraiser, co-founder Venancio said the group is still $2,000 behind. She said this may mean organizers need to scale back the out-of-town excursions that they plan for the kids.

In the past, City Heights Runners organized a trip to a race in Santa Cruz, where kids also attended a tour of the local University of California campus. This year, Venancio said, the group may instead travel to an event in Cuyamaca.

The club is hosting its fifth annual 5K fundraiser on Saturday to help sustain its operations.

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