Mt Pleasant News

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Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 21, 2018

Working towards more than just fitness

World Class Athletes workout beside New London, Burlington high school students during National Guard Fitness Camp
Jun 12, 2018
Photo by: Grace King Students, sargents and World Class Athletes sprinted to the first endurance test along their three-mile run during National Guard Fitness Camp on Monday, June 11. The camp, held in Middletown, is free to students entering high school to new graduates Monday through Thursday this week.

By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News


MIDDLETOWN — New London High School student Currey Jacobs sprinted to the finish line of his three-mile run next to Army World Class Athlete Sargent Samuel Kosgei during National Guard Fitness Camp in Middletown Monday, June 11.

Kosgei, a marathon runner, was impressed by 15-year-old Jacob’s speed throughout the endurance run with 14 additional fitness stations sprinkled throughout the track. This is the fifth year for the fitness camp held at the U.S. Army Reserve Center. The free program spans four days and is open to students of all athletic ability and fitness levels going into high school and recent graduates.

“I could tell he’s a star in track and field,” Kosgei said following the first day of fitness camp. The World Class Athlete from Santa Fe, New Mexico was spotted engaging with students throughout the physical fitness tests presented them including log lifts and tire flips.

It’s important for the students to have someone to look up to and see that the World Class level can be achieved, Kosgei said.

Jacobs, who participated in the fitness camp last year, said he hopes the camp makes him a better athlete, adding that he missed running the 800-meter dash at state track by half a second this past year.

Other students such as Mason Leinbach, of Burlington, were compelled to enlist in the National Guard after spending summers attending fitness camp. As Leinback ran his three miles, he was cheered on by recruiters who will become his peers after he completes basic training in August.

Sargent Austin Allen, recruiter, said Leinback is the perfect example of how involvement in the summer fitness camp can open up a career path for students. While six area school coaches are involved in the fitness camp and bring their team out, Allen said there are at least 25 other coaches who haven’t checked it out yet.

“If every coach in the area could see one day, they would bring their team the next day,” Allen said, adding that the camp is not only physically challenging, but inspires students to reach for new and bigger goals.

New London High School football players Gabe Carter and Nick Francis are attending the camp this week with the rest of their team to get a jump start on summer conditioning and team bonding.

“Just don’t stop,” Francis said panting at the end of his run. “You hate it during, but you don’t regret it. I learn to push myself.”

Francis sees a lot of value in joining the rest of his football team, saying it gets them working together and encouraging each other.

Carter too was hoping to get his endurance up this week, motivated by his team to keep up with their pace. Carter knows from experience at the training camp last year that the workouts will be harder than what he expects. Francis said what keeps him going is his competitive spirit.

“I let my pride push me,” Francis said.

Since the fitness camp was launched in part by First Sargent Jesse Howard, of New London, in 2014, it has grown from 25 to 150 students, and other states are “grabbing onto” the workout model as he shares the plans with the National Guard bureau, Howard said.

“Most soldiers here are citizen soldiers, so this is what they do every day to stay in shape,” Howard said, adding that they are predominantly working with athletic directors and coaches in the New London, Burlington and West Burlington school districts.

Instead of diminishing growth as the camp continues throughout the week, Howard said he actually expects them to grow by 50 students as the word gets out. “Get your battle buddies out here,” he told students.

Even Maj. Gen. Timothy Orr, General of the Iowa National Guard, was seen doing push-ups, burpees and lunges next to students. A military man for almost 40 years, Orr believes in leading by example. Although he had not attended the fitness camp before, he was impressed by the turnout and commitment of students.

“It’s important for them to see an old guy can still hang with them and do the work they do,” Orr said. “It starts with being able to walk the talk.”

Selina Bocanegra, women’s boxing, was another one of seven World Class Athletes to join in the fitness camp Monday. Impressed by what she saw, Bocanegra said when she was in high school she participated in programs like this before enlisting. In this way, the National Guard is open, inviting and unintimidating.

At the close of the day Monday at 11 a.m. Burlington Athletic Director Zach Shay challenged the students to be a finisher and invite their friends.

Shay said that the goals and dreams the students have for the future start with today. “There’s power in the present,” he said, sharing that core values are also an important aspect of success such as hard work, discipline, family and friends. “I’m a fighter,” he added. “Define yourself so it carries you through adversity.”

Students interested in the fitness camp can check in at the U.S. Army Reserve Center in Middletown by 9 a.m. Wednesday or Thursday.

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