PRINCETON: PHS girls to run coastline for charity

Trek will benefit shore’s dunes

By Justin Feil, Assistant Sports Editor
   Julie Bond was only half-serious when she suggested at the end of cross country season that she’d like to run down the state of New Jersey.
   When Paige Metzheiser jumped at the suggestion, the two started to form an idea that will aid Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.
   ”I really like running,” Bond said. “I wanted to do a really long run where we did something like that for a while. I didn’t think about it much and I mentioned it to Paige. We wouldn’t have started on it if she wasn’t so crazy about it. She was telling everyone about it. We wanted to do it for a cause.”
   Bond, Metzheiser and four other Princeton High School girls cross country runners — Evie Bentch, Laure Hartsmanshenn, Lou Mialhe and Raakel Vuojolainen — will run together 136 miles from Sandy Hook down the coast to Cape May. Bond, Metzheiser and Vuojolainen are Cranbury residents, while the other three reside in Princeton.
   The six leave Sunday. They are looking for sponsors, and all monies they raise will support Alliance for a Living Ocean, which helps protect the Jersey Shore and has been aiding in the Hurricane Sandy clean-up efforts with an environmentally friendly and responsible rebuild. Donations can be made at under their posted story labeled “Running for the Dunes” by the charity.
   ”They’ve dealt with Hurricane Sandy and they’ve been dealing with keeping the shores clean for a long time,” Metzheiser said. “And the person who runs Alliance for a Living Ocean, he happens to be a track coach. We reached out to a number of charities, but they seemed the most excited about it.
   ”The money we raise will be specifically for rebuilding dunes. The problem is the dunes that held up best were natural dunes that had plants and the roots that kept them grounded. Making the dunes costs money. That’s what the money we raise will go towards, in the most environmentally friendly way.”
   Metzheiser’s family has a beach house in Long Beach Island, and Bond’s family rents every summer in Ocean City.
   ”We were extremely fortunate,” Metzheiser said. “We’re bayside, and there was a ton of water, but our whole first level is garage. We had damage and had to throw out a lot, but I had neighbors whose whole first floor was destroyed.”
   Said Bond: “Princeton definitely didn’t see the worst of it. Ocean City, a lot of beaches were hit much harder than where my house is, but now in Ocean City there are construction vehicles all over. Atlantic City, which is right next to it, is completely destroyed.”
   PHS is hoping its run will do some good for an area that still needs help in recovering. The six PHS girls will stick together on the run the entire way, averaging about 15 miles per day over 10 days with one rest day built in to the journey.
   ”We’re looking forward to having fun, running a lot,” Bond said. “The logistics are pretty set. Paige’s and my parents are taking turns following us for safety reasons. We have three different houses we’re staying at.”
   The mileage will be the most for any of the runners over a 10-day span in their lives. It will be a significant challenge for each of them.
   ”We’re happy to be doing it,” Metzheiser said. “I’m just so happy. If I’m doing anything for a cause, I’m happy it’s running.”
   Metzheiser will be stretching her mileage up quite a bit from the spring track and field season in which she focused on the 400 meters and some 800 meters. She was part of the 4×800 relay along with Mialhe to run at the New Balance Nationals last Friday.
   ”I’m the only sprinter of the group,” Metzheiser said. “I finished the season with the 800. We’re all really excited, but of course we have some concerns about what our bodies can take. None of us has done this before. We’ve been running miles as a group.”
   It will help that they will have each other through the run. They could have done the run as a relay, but wouldn’t have gotten the full team experience that way.
   ”We’re planning on finishing our run in the morning before it’s too hot,” Bond said. “That’ll be a nice way to rest on the beach, spending time together and bonding. I guess that was part of the motivation.
   ”It’ll be a good way to get into cross country,” she added. “We talked to Coach (Jim) Smirk about the run. He was excited about it and excited that we were planning it.”
   The girls have been advertising their run in local businesses in Princeton and Cranbury to drum up support an interest, and they have been talking it up on Facebook.
   ”I think we’re mostly happy with how it’s received,” Bond said. “A lot of people think we’re crazy. A lot of people think it’s cool and think it’s for a good cause. The more we talk to people, the more they understand it and are potentially interested in donating.”
   Bond and Metzheiser offered the opportunity to the entire PHS girls cross country team, but having just six will make the logistics of traveling each morning and night easier. Metzheiser was determined from the outset to be a part of the run.
   ”I kind of see it as an adventure,” she said. “Having the charity part is a huge bonus. For selfish reasons, I just want to be able to say I did this. I think it’s something cool to say and to say I did it all to help rebuild dunes makes it a lot better.”
   She is excited about the opportunity to work for the charity together. It’s already been a unique experience, something she will treasure.
   ”Obviously to be together, running as a team, is special,” Metzheiser said. “Coach Smirk has always made everything we do as a team. You don’t drive yourself to a meet. You don’t listen to music when we run together. We like being together.”
   Bond, too, is looking forward to seeing the idea come to fruition.
   ”I’m definitely happy we’re doing something,” Bond said. “I’m surprised. When I was thinking about it last summer, I thought it would be cool, and then it made it realistic when we found a cause. I am surprised that it’s a few days away and it’s all so soon and we’re actually going to do it.”
   The six have helped to raise awareness of the relief efforts while doing something they love. It’s the perfect combination for the group.
   ”I think I’m really excited about just running that much,” Bond said. “I like going on long runs. I’m excited to do it with my teammates. We’ll all be starting cross country in the fall.
   ”I think it’s really cool that we’re doing it for a cause. I think it’s cool that people are caring about the environment because of what we’re doing.”