East St. Louis middle school coach teaching life lessons through - KMOV.com

East St. Louis middle school coach teaching life lessons through running

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Students running at the Mason-Clark Middle School cross country practice (Credit: KMOV) Students running at the Mason-Clark Middle School cross country practice (Credit: KMOV)

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (KMOV.com) – Students on the cross country team at Mason-Clark Middle School are feeling enthusiastic about running this season with the help of their coach.

Coach Cortez Branch has been leading the cross country team at the East St. Louis school for about 20 years. Branch allows anyone to join the cross country team because he says he rather see students running on his team than running in the streets.

“It’s about opportunity, doing something positive for the kids. Letting them come out, being a part of something,” said Branch. “There’s so much negativity here in East St. Louis and we want to show the kids that something positive can happen.”

Eighth-grader Willie Butler is a part of the cross country team and says he learned a lot about work ethic from “Uncle Branch”.

“You don’t always have to be the best, but you should always work hard,” said eighth-grade student Willie Butler.

The school has one of the largest cross country teams in Illinois with a roster of 112 runners.

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