3:40 p.m. PDT May 7, 2016
Xavi Ceja’s race day began with an egg and toast.
Xavi, 7, experienced Awesome 3000 for the first time on Saturday.
And what an experience it was.
Waking up before 8 a.m., Xavi was a little sleepy and groggy in the early morning.
He watched a soccer game on TV as his father braided his sister’s hair and his mother prepared a breakfast to get him going.
He was going to need all the energy he could get to participate in the annual event at McCulloch Stadium. He broke the yoke of his egg over his toast, eating to fuel up.
This year was the 34th annual Awesome 3000.
More than 3,300 pre-kindergarten through fifth grade children from the Salem-Keizer area took part in the day.
From the bright, orange volunteer shirts to the children chanting and squealing, the stadium becomes a cluster of energy in Salem every year on the first Saturday in May.
Krina Lee, executive director of the Salem-Keizer Education Foundation, said in a previous interview that the event idea was born about 35 years ago.
“Awesome 3000 started as a group of parents sitting around a table. Literally a dinner table,” she said. “They wanted to figure out a way to help teachers, so they started this to raise money and have teachers be able to apply for grants for school supplies or other materials.”
A year later, in 1982, the first Awesome 3000 began with an inaugural class of 181 runners.
Since, the event has become a yearly tradition for thousands and has helped countless people.
According to Lee, more than $70,000 was given in grants in 2015 with money raised from 2014’s race. Additionally, the foundation has contributed more than $5 million in educational initiatives since 1982.
Once they got to the stadium, Xavi and his family went through the filing process to get Xavi to the warm-up area on the field.
Each child gets a wristband, as do the parents, before running onto the turf.
Xavi said he loves running and he loves winning.
As boys from his grade chanted “boys, boys, boys” against the first-grade girls “girls, girls, girls” chant, Xavi sat on the ground quietly. He tied his shoes and played with the turf.
Some of his friends from Four Corners Elementary School were also running. He sat with them and hung out before lining up at the starting line.
Some kids who saw their friends cheered and gave each other hugs, but when they all gathered around the starting line, it was business time.
The weeks of preparing was finally coming to fruition.
With the shot of the pistol, they were off!
The youngsters quickly completed the 1500-meter run and finished with high fives and cheers at the finish line.
Xavi said he ran the whole time, determined to finish strong.
“I just kept going,” Xavi said after the race. “I never gave up.”
His father, Robert Ceja, said he is proud of Xavi.
“We feel blessed and so proud,” he said. “It is important for us to teach our children discipline, sportsmanship, and leadership to set a great example for Xavi’s sister, Sonia, and to encourage others.”
Natalie Pate is the education reporter for the Statesman Journal. Contact Natalie at npate@StatesmanJournal.com, (503) 399-6745, or follow her on Twitter @Nataliempate, on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/nataliepatejournalist or on the Web at nataliepate.com
At StatesmanJournal.com/Awesome, you will find:
Sights and sounds: More than 100 photos of this year’s runners and video of the action.
Results: A database searchable by name, school, bib number and grade.
A look back: Past years’ photos and results.