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W&L Track Teammates Train, Teach in Ghana

Washington and Lee cross country and track teammates Molly Ortiz, a senior from Ketchikan, Alaska, and Annelise Madison, a junior from Roka, Neb., teamed up this summer for a fascinating internship experience in Ghana.

Molly and Annelise volunteered with the Ghana ACT (Alliance for Community Transformations) education program. They spent eight-and-a-half weeks teaching English, math, science and computer skills to students at McColin’s Primary School in Fiave, Ho—a school that “focuses on providing a good education to underprivileged children: orphans, children with single mothers, children of teenage parents.” They also showed the kids how to throw a football and how to play basketball, using equipment that had been donated by many at W&L before they left.

And when they weren’t teaching or coaching, they were running and writing about their experiences.

First, the writing. All the the entries on both Molly’s blog (click on stories and read from the bottom up) and Annelise’s blog are worth reading. Some posts are duplicated on the other’s blog, but they are invariably filled with wonderfully rich detail and anecdotes—showing the students the internet, a small-world encounter with a VMI alum, erecting basketball goals at the school and teaching the students how to play.

Then there was the running—a whole lot of running as they worked their way up to 70 miles a week. Annelise is the Old Dominion Athletic Conference champion in the mile; Molly was third in the ODAC steeplechase. Both are also on the cross country team: Annelise was fifth and Molly 15th in the ODACs last fall. So a constant refrain in their blogs is the work they’ve been doing to prepare for the upcoming cross country season.

In one of her first posts, Molly wrote that they wanted to not only maintain, but increase their fitness level in order to reach their goal of qualifying for the NCAAs in the fall.

With the Doremus Fitness Center unavailable, Molly and Annelise had to improvise. Mostly, they found some rocks to lift. And the Ghanaians clearly enjoyed watching them train. In their final post from Ghana, Annelise paints a delightful picture with this passage:

Our cross country training has been going well…we continue to increase our mileage and, as we don’t have the nutrition that we are used to in America, it is taking its toll on us. Two-a-days are especially exhausting, as we run at 5:30 am and then again after teaching, playing, and coaching the children at 5:00 pm. Molly and I continue to have a following — people literally stop whatever they are doing and run with us for a few steps or an entire mile. Sometimes we feel how Forrest Gump must have felt on his long run.

Now it’s back to the States and preparing for Aug. 31, when the Generals travel to the ODAC Cross Country Preview in Harrisonburg.