By Todd Martin

Special to the Daily Herald

More than 400 first- through sixth-graders ran, jumped and tugged together in a track meet Saturday at Leo Buckley Stadium in Killeen that helped motivate academic excellence and good behavior.

Communities in Schools for Bell and Coryell counties sponsored the meet for the third year, drawing participants from 10 elementary schools and four middle schools in Killeen and Copperas Cove.

Ronald Knight, assistant principal at Hay Branch Elementary School in Killeen and coach for his school's track team, said the meet did far more than train students in a sport.

"It puts smiles on their faces," Knight said as he stood along the track and urged on his athletes.

"We get parent support out here and we get CIS willing to do this for the children. A lot of kids do nothing on a Saturday but sit at home and watch TV. This gets them out," Knight said.

He worked with students once a week after school during sports club for several months to prepare them for the meet.

Culminating the hard work with a well-organized meet, complete with an announcer, timers and students dressed in team T-shirts made it special, Knight said.

David Woodberry, program coordinator for CIS, said the track meet promotes academics and positive behavior because students must maintain high grades and stay out of trouble to take part.

"It encourages them to work harder in class," he said. "If they struggle with behavior or academics, this gives them motivation to work harder."

"It gets them outside doing something different and parents come watch and we have teachers here coaching," Woodberry said.

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