Girls on the Run 5K returns after a three-year hiatus

The Girls on the Run (GOTR) 5k was back on Saturday, May 21, for the first time since 2019. The colorful crowd of over 750 runners gathered at White Deer Plaza in Sparta, including 379 GOTR participants, to celebrate completion of the program that inspires girls to be happy, healthy and confident. The Plaza was filled with smiles, music and some nervous energy as the girls and their fellow runners ran the 5km distance, many of them crossing the finish line holding hands.

“The determination of the girls is inspiring,” said general manager Maureen Dykstra. “They learned that if you put in the time, you can achieve your goals. We are incredibly proud of them.

Two fourth-year Sparta participants shared what it felt like to cross the finish line. Leah Selander said: “I felt great and confident.” Angie Szabo added: “I felt the victory and I was happy. I felt pride in my heart.

Throughout the program, the girls meet with their coaches twice a week to learn the lessons of the GOTR program. This program is designed to address the girl’s emotional, physical, spiritual and social health, while also training for the 5K.

“The beauty of the program is that the benefits last long after the girls cross the finish line.” Dykstra said: “We are grateful to our sponsors, coaches and volunteers who give so many hours of their time to make this day a reality. We couldn’t do it without their support.

GOTR New Jersey North serves girls in Sussex, Bergen, Hudson and Passaic counties and has seen more than 6,000 girls cross the finish line since its inception in 2012. Program founder and coordinator Melissa Fagersten is retiring after 10 years in this position. “It takes so many people to lift this and I am always in awe of the volunteers who get up so early to happily help out.”

Fagersten continued, “Together we create this immediate community that works together for one purpose. As I step away from my role as program coordinator, I could never fully express the gratitude I have for the women I work with. My experience over the past 10 years has been extremely rewarding and I look forward to expanding my role as a board member.

In a statement, GOTR New Jersey North thanks the following sponsors. Presenting Sponsor, Riverview Paving, along with Lake Mohawk Country Club, Sparta Elks Club, Sparwick Contracting, ThorLabs, Newton-Sparta Pediatric Dentistry, Julie Killen of Coldwell Banker, Dykstra Associates, Wellness Pediatrics, Duphiney Financial Network, Biondo Investment Advisors, Newton Medical Center, Red Hook Terminals, Team Walker, Ritacco Construction, Tiffany Heineman Esquire, AdvoCare Vernon Pediatrics, ALFA Development, Chilton Medical Center, Lakeland Bank, The German Christmas Market Foundation, Marion Cuff of The Grace Financial Group, C&H Agency, Youssef Abdelhalim of Annie Mac Home Mortgage, Krogh’s Restaurant and Brew Pub, Loftus Electric, Fairclough Realtors, Junior Women’s Club of Sparta, Atlantic Infrastructure, Macchione Construction, Deihdra Miller and Colleen Hardcastle.

GOTR coaches and volunteers are the backbone of the organization. If you would like more information, donate, or inquire about volunteer opportunities, visit the website at

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