SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Girl power was on full display in West Springfield Saturday with family, coaches, and friends cheering on those participating in the annual “Girls on the Run 5K.”

Hundreds gathered at Western New England University for the day’s events, which included pre-run and post-run activities are a celebration of the Girls on the Run programming.

Over a 10-week period, girls in grades third through eighth partake in a 20-lesson social-emotional program to foster confidence, build peer connections, and encourage community service. There are 1,000 girls currently participating in the spring season here in Western Massachusetts.

In total, over 2,000 runners, in combination with the girls themselves and their running buddies hit the finish line. Allison of Girls on the Run told 22News, combining social and emotional learning with the physical element of running builds up these girls’ full self-esteem.

Alison Berman, the Council Director of Girls on the Run Western Massachusetts told 22News, “At age nine, girls’ confidence tends to decline dramatically and so really getting the kids at this age makes a huge difference. So not only does their confidence decline at this elementary school age but also studies show that girls particularly become less active and drop out of organized sports, so keeping them more engaged and increasing confidence.”

That confidence shone through one runner, Sophie, who was the first to cross the finish line!

Sophie, in Grade 6 said, “I really love running, for starters. I think it, I feel like it gives me the confidence to boost myself forward, say I need to meet this goal, and when I do meet it makes me feel really good.”

Shandria McCoy, a coach for Girls on the Run told 22News, “It’s amazing just to see their growth throughout the weeks of the program.”

Heather Twining, a coach for Girls on the Run said, “It’s just very rewarding, it really is.”