Caitlin Paxton’s journey to the foot of a snowy Lake Geneva mountain drew her into the heart of the Abominable Snow Race.
“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 Saturday, 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.”
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.
“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 into 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 needed some medical attention.
Owners of the Abominable Snow Race were impressed by NIU’s contributions, which included “filling the void” caused by missing volunteers.
“The feedback from the Abominable Snow Race was great,” Calderala says. “They want to do more here at NIU, so we want to see what that looks like and see what we can offer.”