The traveling trophy will be awarded to the school with the most participants — by percentage — in the race that takes place annually on Memorial Day. The Ridge Run begins and ends in Ridge Park in Beverly.
About 2,500 people are expected to participate in the 10K, 5K and one-mile races beginning at 8 a.m. May 29. Many students, parents and teachers from throughout the Southwest Side are expected to be among them after as part of a continued push to form school running clubs.
The Beverly Area Planning Association began encouraging the formation of such clubs last year. It teamed with the local running studio Treadfit to develop a six-week regimen for elementary school students.
The goal was to put young runners on the path to complete the Ridge Run 5K. Nearly a dozen such teams participated last year. The average elementary school team had about 20 runners, said Margot Burke Holland, the association's executive director.
But more than 100 children and adults ran the 2016 Ridge Run with the Clissold group — more than any other school. The Cougars were given yellow shirts and a special tent near the finish line for their strong participation. They also introduced their new school mascot, Henry, at the race.
Clissold's school colors stood out among the sea of blue shirts worn by other participants, said McNichols, added that the event turned into both a bonding and branding experience for the school at 2350 W. 110th Place.
"It really helped us drive community in the school," McNichols said.
Promoting this sense of community among participating schools was a goal for the running club initiative, as was driving the number of entrants in the race. To that end, roughly 2,500 people ran the Ridge Run last year compared to 2,200 in 2015, Holland said.
She credited the surge to both the running clubs as well as improved weather last year. And as for the school children, she said they truly value being able to say they completed the neighborhood race.
"Kids love getting street cred," she said.
As for the trophy, the winning school will receive the prize based on the percentage of its overall students who complete the race. So Clissold with its 511 students could be dethroned by another school with fewer students but a higher percentage of runners when compared to its total student population.
Not that McNichols is worried. He believes the trophy will be back at Clissold next year, though Holland encouraged other schools to do their best to knock off last year's winner.
"Game on, Ridge Run. Let's do this," she said.