It was before 7 a.m. Friday and the early ’80s hit song “It’s Raining Men” was blaring from an SUV in the Pennsylvania Military Museum parking lot.
Mount Nittany health and physical education teacher Julie Christie said the event started three years ago as a way to promote lifelong fitness and healthy habits.
It coincides with National Bike Month each May.
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“Both students start from a central location near their location, and compete to see which school has the highest percentage of participation to bike from the location, as a group, to school,” Christie said.
There were 112 participants in all.
Mount Nittany students started at the museum and took a trail to the back of the school. Park Forest students started at Greenbriar Saybrook Park. The routes were each about a mile.
Entering the day with a 1-1 record, Mount Nittany won this year’s battle.
“It’s healthy competition, and a way to help students feel a sense of community and pride in their school,” Christie said. “More than anything, we just go back to school with bragging rights.”
But there is also a bigger meaning behind the event.
Christie said it’s a way to remember former health and physical education teacher Beth Donghia, who died in 2011.
Donghia was the mastermind behind a grant used to purchase 30 bicycles for the classes to use, Christie said.
Those bikes were used during the competition.
But some students, like seventh-graders Charlie Herlocher and Megan Stoltzfus, used their own bikes.
“It’s cool that we have a chance to do this and hang with friends,” Charlie said. “It’s a good way to kick off summer, and if we win, it’s just the cherry on top.”
Megan participated in the event last year, during which she said it rained.
This year was about 50 degrees and sunny.
“We really lucked out, which is why we had a pretty good turnout,” Megan said. “I think we go into it trying to have fun, but for me, personally, I’m kind of competitive, so it’s nice to win.”
Students also met with eighth-grader Gabe Billy, who joined the group about halfway on a recumbent tricycle.
Some students, as part of a group called Area Buddies, work with special-needs students, including Gabe.