Tag: Exercise Science Club

Exercise Science Club students shine at Abominable Snow Race

Caitlin Paxton (right) and Dave Benner work with a child in the Winners Circle.

Caitlin Paxton (right) and Dave Benner work
with a child in the Winners Circle.

Caitlin Paxton’s journey to the foot of a snowy Lake Geneva mountain drew her into the heart of the Abominable Snow Race.

But amid the frigid cold and friendly competition, the senior from Plano found affirmation of her dream to teach Physical Education to elementary school children.

“I helped with the ‘Little Yeti’ race, which was a kid’s version. It was so fun; they were so cute,” says Paxton, who will begin student-teaching in the fall.

More than 100 children from ages 4 to 12 participated in the Jan. 27 event, she says.

“We had six different obstacles. They had to go and run the obstacles, sled down one hill and run up another, sled down another and run across the finish line. They got medals, just like the adults did,” she says. “I was really surprised. It was cold and slippery, but they were determined to do it.”

Paxton joined a dozen classmates in NIU’s Exercise Science Club in making the trip to “The Midwest’s Premier Winter Obstacle Race,” which each year attracts up to 2,700 runners eager to tap into their “inner Yeti.”

Tony Calderala, an academic advisor in the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, arranged for the dozen club members to volunteer along the course and in the “Base Camp” area.

exercise-science-club

After arriving Friday evening in Wisconsin and grabbing some dinner, the Huskies made their way to the Grand Geneva Ski Resort to begin assembling their pegboard obstacle, which challenged racers to go up and over in a test of their athleticism.

“Overall, it went pretty well,” Calderala says. “On Race Day, we got there about 6:30 in the morning, set up our last-minute items, helped in the volunteer tents and at the starting line. All of the students were course marshals for the competition heats; if racers failed an obstacle, we took away one of their three wristbands.”

For an hour after the race, he says, NIU’s pegboard proved a popular and favorite attraction. Many of the racers called it “a great way to practice,” he says.

Bill Wolfe tackles NIU’s pegboard.

Bill Wolfe tackles NIU’s pegboard.

“Racers coming off the course wanted to challenge themselves more,” he says. “We had a timing competition – how fast could they do it? Or how many times could they go up and down without touching the ground? Bill Wolfe, the owner of Abominable Snow Race, said, ‘I gotta try it.’ He went for it and did pretty well. We had kids and their parents.”

NIU’s students were able to do some teaching of good race technique – “It’s not all upper-body; it’s about core,” Calderala says – and get first-hand looks at some aspects of sport management.

Among the issues: up-and-down temperatures froze the course overnight from Friday to Saturday; bright sun Saturday morning melted the ice and turned parts of course into mud and slush, snagging ATVs and requiring the distribution of water by foot; some volunteers failed to show.

“We met gym owners and were able to discuss what goes designing these courses: ‘What did you think about when you put it together? Why did you put it together this way?’ They learned that in the construction of these obstacles, they actually think through what this is going to look like and how it’s going to affect an athlete.”

Students also saw some injuries – “ankle sprains, bumps, bruises, nothing serious” – and learned how to help athletes keep going if they need some medical attention.

basecampOwners of the Abominable Snow Race were impressed by NIU’s contributions, which including “filling the void” caused by missing volunteers.

“The feedback from ASR was great,” Calderala says. “They want to do more here at NIU, so we want to see what they looks like and see what we can offer.”



Exercise Science Club to boost 2018 Abominable Snow Race

Tony Calderala

Tony Calderala

For people who find it fun to run a foot race up, over and down a snow-covered mountain in Wisconsin, here’s some good news: the annual Abominable Snow Race takes place Saturday.

“No Skis, No Dogs, No Sleds,” its Facebook page boldly proclaims. “This race is just you, 5 Snowy Miles, 20+ Obstacles, and the Abominable weather.”

Dubbed “The Midwest’s Premier Winter Obstacle Race,” the event beckons up to 2,700 runners of all stripes to the Grand Geneva Ski Resort to tap into their “inner Yeti.”

Members of NIU’s Exercise Science Club will join them.

Tony Calderala, an academic advisor in the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, has arranged for at least 12 students to volunteer at the Base Camp.

“We’re going to put some cool-down and warm-up things together to teach people who want to get better as athletes,” Calderala says. “We’ve designed a pegboard challenge for people to go up, over and down so we can, ‘How good of an athlete are you? What do you want to accomplish?’ We’ll also do a couple competitions on stage.”

Each volunteer will receive a free entry pass to the 2019 race, he adds.

asr-logoBut the more valuable rewards will come from the professional connections students can make in Lake Geneva as well as the behind-the-scenes look at the organization of a large sporting event.

“Some are looking for networking opportunities. Gym owners are there. Obstacle Course Racing is getting bigger, and now there are gyms dedicated to training people in Obstacle Course Racing,” Calderala says.

“A couple students are interested in the management side, wanting to see what it’s like to own and operate your own event,” he adds. “Others are interested in the sport itself, in learning about it, especially if they’ve never seen it for themselves.”

Calderala, who runs obstacle courses as a spare-time hobby, is making this happen through his acquaintance with Abominable Snow Race owner Bill Wolfe. He also is a former workout buddy with Tom Abraham, the course designer.

“I talked to Bill and said, ‘Do you want any help? I can bring some students,’ ” Calderala says. “Bill has been looking to work with a university here in northern Illinois or in southern Wisconsin to develop a partnership to expand this beyond the one race.”

Possibilities for the future included posting college students as “course marshals” who monitor the racers in the “elite” heats as they attempt to qualify for larger obstacle events, such as the Tough Mudder.

Students also can provide physical training on the course, demonstrate good form or offer encouragement in the way of cheering.