The discussions around the campfire during the camping trips, and especially as a rookie that year, will always stick with me. After not running at State my freshman year, my personal goal for that upcoming 1998 season was to contribute to the team and count in scoring at some meets. I ended up being a top 5 runner nearly all year, even at the State Meet. We knew we had a good team going into that season, maybe Coach knew more than we did, but we set some pretty lofty team goals around that fire. Win EDC. Win State. (Still gives me goosebumps.) Those goals may not have started on the camping trip, but they were vocalized around the team for the first time, and really put into practice from then on. I feel like it was a defining moment for our group.
That first camping trip for me was also the first camping trip for my good friend Lee DeKrey, who would go on to win an individual state title as a junior. He has told me the story many times of how he finished his run, walked to the showers, and while walking back to camp he was absolutely astounded to see me and some of the other older runners just finishing up our run. I like to think that in that moment, even as a first time camper, I helped inspire him to become the great runner he turned into (but I’m pretty sure it was mostly his work ethic/talent combination that did that.)
Over the next few trips to Bemidji, I helped pioneer a lot of the things that would carry on in future trips. I was one of the first to do the entire loop around the lake for the final long run of the trip. I was part of a small group that did the first extra ball-buster intervals, something that the top runners have continued to do. At the Griak meet later that year a small group of us surprised everyone by dressing up in shirts and ties to go out for dinner, something that carried over each year after that. Now, as I read Coach’s packing list, it looks like it has maybe influenced the camping trip as well. I feel a bit of “Central Pride” when I read other accounts of campers going all the way around the lake or doing extra ball buster sets, knowing I was a small part of such great traditions.
So, to the rookie (and veteran) campers: Take it in as much as you can. Leave your phone at home (back in my day, we didn’t have that problem!) Look to your older teammates for guidance, but remember, you may just be setting an example for a fellow camper yourself. Know when it’s your turn for meal and dish duty. Super Soakers are most effective (on everyone but Tanner Lundby) first thing in the morning. Don’t make people wait for you to start team morning runs. Double knot your shoes before the ball-buster. And whatever you do...win the Frisbee football tournament.
Finally, to parents of rookie (and veteran) campers: When your son or daughter comes back from the camping trip, and you overhear them talking about fartleks, ball-busters and debating with teammates whether it was better to wear all black or camouflage during late night “activities”, fear not! They have been simply making memories and friendships that will last a lifetime (mine have lasted 16 years, and counting.)
Knights XC 1997-2001
UND XC, Track 2001-2005