STONINGTON — On a new asphalt-surfaced track, a group of fourth-graders at Deans Mill School ran, jogged and walked loops around Sherry Castodio, almost reducing her to tears.
“I’m overwhelmed with happiness,” said Castodio, who has spent 27 of her 31 years in education as the Deans Mill physical education and health teacher. “They have an even, smooth surface to run on. It’s a phenomenal thing to have.”
The Sherry Castodio Track was officially opened Thursday morning, a project years in the making. The track, an eighth-of-a-mile around, replaces the school’s sand and crushed-stone track that was more than a dozen years old, worn, overgrown and, in some spots, barely visible.
“It’s a lot easier to get a grip on the track,” said fourth-grader Ryan Orr, a 10-year-old who set the boys’ mile run record a few weeks ago on the new surface with a time of 6 minutes, 2 seconds. “There’s a lot more space so you’re not crowded out and you can actually see the track and where you’re going.”
Flanked by two sets of playground equipment in the back of the school, the track, in the few weeks it’s been in use, already has changed P.E. at Deans Mill.
“The classes are able to get more exercise because we’re using it a lot more,” Castodio said. “Students are even using it at recess. They’re doing cartwheels around it, skipping around it. It gives them another option of something to do.”
Added fourth-grader Piper Doyle, who set the girls’ mile run record with a time of 6 minutes, 43 seconds: “It’s a lot easier to run when rocks aren’t getting up on your legs.”
Castodio has been the main advocate of the project, which cost $12,000 — a blend of money that came from grants, the school’s PTO, Stonington Education Fund and Wal-Mart.
“It’s not just a track for us, but a track the whole community can use,” Principal Doug Hammel said. “It’s very popular with the kids. It’s a really nice addition.”
For Piper, 10, the new track has an added benefit for another of her interests. “The running helps me with my stamina when I’m doing Irish Step dance.”