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Interns play important role in Half Marathon

August 16, 2018
News and Sentinel Half Marathon

PARKERSBURG - In the leadup to each year's Parkersburg News and Sentinel Half Marathon, a college student working as an intern for race officials puts in hours and weeks of work to prepare for the competition.

The interns play an important role in preparing for each year's Half Marathon. Art Smith, online manager for The Parkersburg News and Sentinel and the Marietta Times, is logistical director for the Half Marathon.

The News and Sentinel has been the primary sponsor of the Half since 2002 and in 2003 implemented the internship program each summer.

Article Photos

Kayla Schradel works on painting the finish line for the News and Sentinel Half Marathon and Two Mile Race on Market Street Tuesday evening. She was one of 15 people who painted the 29-foot wide end of the race marker. (Photo by Art Smith)

"We've had a variety of students from West Virginia University, Marietta College and Ohio University," he said, adding most have worked for one year although a few have spent two years in the position.

Most have been following degree paths involving advertising, marketing, event planning and related fields.

"They are responsible for daily contact with the runners. They answer questions, they compile registration lists, they handle the huge number of details that it takes to stage a race, organizing supplies and different things," Smith said.

"They are an integral part of the race going off smoothly," he said.

Hilary Heinzman Rockhold served as race coordinator for the summer of 2008. She is originally from New Martinsville and attended Marietta College. She learned about the internship observing presentations of other interns at MC. She currently works to manage product and strategic merchandising tests for a large consumer products company based in Cleveland.

"My time spent working at the News and Sentinel on the Half was invaluable," Rockhold said. "Not only did it prepare me in the sense of a regular work schedule and an office environment, but also how to work with others to achieve a common goal. There were many interns before me, and I wanted to do my part to assist those after," she said.

Growing up in New Martinsville, just up the Ohio River from Parkersburg, Rockhold said she thought she was familiar with the Half until she began working as an intern.

"For example, I didn't know that it was a championship qualifying race or how involved the community was in making this a premier event for the Mid-Ohio Valley," she said.

At a time when social media wasn't quite mainstream, Rockhold said the work pushed her outside of her comfort zone. Many phone calls were made as well as traveling to area businesses asking for sponsorships, donations, and to allow organizers to place race fliers in their establishments.

"I learned quickly that it's much harder than it sounds and that building credibility and explaining the WIIFM (what's in it for me) is crucial in those few moments spent together. Art also started up the first News and Sentinel Half Marathon blog for me that year. This was something completely novel to me, and it was fun being the guinea pig," she said.

Out of all the hours spent entering registration forms, blasting out emails, putting the race packets together and painting the finish line, Rockhold said what she probably learned most is that coordinating an event of this size takes the time of many people, many of whom are volunteers.

"The committee works together year round, long before the interns show up, and truly know how to operate this race. As soon as the gun is fired at the start line, pride and pleasure are beaming from all the individuals who spend countless hours volunteering their time to the community," she said.

Carrie (Mason) Thrash was the 2007 race coordinator. Originally from Parkersburg, she was a student at Marietta College and double majored in advertising/public relations and marketing. She was required to have an internship as part of her graduation requirements which led to her involvement in the Half.

"I'm originally from Parkersburg, so I was well aware of the race from growing up in the area. I definitely came away from the experience with a deeper appreciation for all the work that goes in to making the races a world-class event. It can feel overwhelming when you think about all of the details, but I worked with an awesome volunteer committee that made my job significantly easier. I really feel like the event planning experience I gained from this internship really gave me a solid foundation for the rest of my professional career," Thrash said.

Event planning was part of her responsibilities when she worked for the American Cancer Society and in her current job at Washington State Community College as the director of new student enrollment.

"My parents, sisters, husband and I have participated in the 2 mile race a few times since I was the race coordinator. I signed my 2-year-old daughter up for this year's Tiny Tot Trot, so I'm excited to see how she reacts," she said.

The current intern is Kayla Schradel, a senior at Marietta College studying marketing with an advertising/public relations minor. She has been working since mid-May and will continue through the end of the race.

Schradel said the routine and work leading up to the start of the race have remained much the same over the years, although there have been some changes compared to the first few years. Social media has become much more important to the process and part of her job has involved doing posts and updates through that forum.

"I've been doing mass e-mails to potential registrants. I've been doing registration forms - filling them in and putting them into the system - and I've been doing a lot of social media posts just to get people interested in registering for the race," she said.



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