Moving up the fitness ladder, Don Disney, former coordinator of athletics, is joining The Cooper Institute

Don Disney, former coordinator of athletics for Howard County, sent an email recently to let us know that he's retiring — again. Well, almost.

For the 6 1/2 years, Don has been director of health and wellness for the El Paso (Texas) Independent School District.

Don will be staring career No. 3 Aug. 1 when he joins The Cooper Institute in Dallas. There he will be the national program director of FitnessGram, a fitness assessment and reporting program that was developed by the Cooper Institute nearly 30 years ago.

"It doesn't get any better," Don told sports editor Carol Gralia earlier this week. "It's like the pinnacle as far as being able to make an impact worldwide."

Health and fitness have long been Don's passions and Dr. Kenneth Cooper, the "father ofaerobics" and the founder of The Cooper Institute, has been one of his inspirations.

"He was always a mentor and hero figure of mine," Don said of the author of "The New Aerobics," which came out in the early 1970s and sparked a national fitness craze.

When Don was a physical education teacher at Atholton Elementary School, he started a Kangaroo club to encourage aerobic activity. Those who could jump rope for three minutes became club members. The club soon morphed into the Kangaroo Kids as fitness ambassadors.

"I still remember my Howard County roots and this position brings back the excitement I experienced as the founder of the Kangaroo Kids," Don said of his new career. He has been in education 39 years.

"Disney is widely recognized for his outstanding work and impressive results to improve the health of El Paso ISD Students. I fully expect he will build upon those remarkable efforts at The Cooper Institute as he leads the national and international FitnessGram program," Kenneth Cooper said an a press release.

The FITNESSGRAM measures overall fitness by looking at aerobic capacity, body composition, muscular endurance, strength and flexibility. Howard County's schools have been using the FitnessGram since Baltimore County brought it to Maryland many years ago.

"Howard County was in the mix early on," Don said.

The FitnessGram program is used by more than 86,000 schools nationwide and in 14 countries. That means Don will have the opportunity for international travel in his new position. He'll also be working to help implement a new interactive software game called the Quest to Lava Mountain, a Web-based program that teaches about healthy eating.

"I'm looking forward to the challenge of the new job and the opportunity to affect children's health," he said.

From EagleMan to the Ironman

Elizabeth Flynn, a Howard County resident of more than 30 years and triathlete, captured second place in the women's 40-44 age group at the Ironman 70.3 EagleMan Triathlon June 12 in Cambridge. Her time earned a qualifying slot to compete at the Ford Ironman World Championships this October in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. There she will swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run 26.2 miles.

Elizabeth is a USAT-certified triathlon coach and heads up Tri2BeMore, a Howard County based triathlon club for athletes of all ability levels. She will round out the year in November competing as a member of Team USA at the International Triathlon Union Long Course World Championships in Henderson, Nev.

She qualified and raced at Kona in 2008.

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