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Manitowoc 2nd grader sets goal to run 200 miles despite school closures

Local News

MANITOWOC, Wis. (WFRV) – A running challenge that originally started on the schoolyard has now moved to the neighborhood sidewalks.

Eight-year-old Willem DeCleene simply began running at recess, but when his second-grade teacher found out, it soon turned into a challenge to run one hundred miles by the end of the year.

Willem hit his original goal of 100 miles by Christmas and now the second grader has doubled his goal and hopes to hit 200 miles by the end of the school year.

His new 200-mile challenge with his teacher Rebecca Yagodinski faced some challenges of its own, however, when schools closed due to COVID-19.

“It was just kind of disheartening because he had this goal and now he won’t be able to get it,” said Willem’s mother Shelley. “That’s when it was really cool to have Mrs. Yagodinski reach out and say if Willem was willing she would take any of the miles that we tracked at home.”

Since she was no longer able to encourage Willem in person, Mrs. Yagodinski sent him some extra motivation in the way of a movie clip.

The scenes of Tom Hanks running cross country in the film “Forrest Gump” prompted Willem to re-create the famous clip himself as a gift to his teacher.

Home video created by Willem and his family

The video, which is edited to make it appear as if Willem runs all the way to Lambeau Field, was a hit with Mrs. Yagodinski.

“I can’t wait to see what he’s doing a few years from now,” says Yagodinski. “Twenty years from now and we’ll always have that connection of remembering the year that he ran 200 miles.”

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