DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR
MARBLE FALLS — When First Baptist Christian School seventh-grader Avery Charlton stood below the 10-foot wall, she wondered if she could get up and over it. She, along with nine other FBCS middle school students and two coaches had put most of the Spartan Sprint behind them.
But this wall towering pushed Charlton as close to her breaking point as she could get. After all, she could just walk away, quit. Who would blame her? Charlton was only a seventh-grader running a course that tripped up many adults. And many adults wouldn’t even be willing to tackle a Spartan Sprint that snaked about three miles around Reveille Peak Ranch peppered with numerous obstacles.
She looked up at the wall. This could be it.
For FBCS coaches and teachers Kelly Kirkpatrick and Dorey Stubblefield, the reason for taking the kids to the Spartan Race on May 16 at Reveille Peak Ranch was simple, they wanted to challenge them and show them that they could do something big, something totally unlike anything they’d ever tried.
“The obstacles they are facing in life are hitting kids younger and younger,” Kirkpatrick said. “So one of the reasons we did Spartan (Sprint) was to let them know that they can do it, they can face obstacles and get over them. They can face any obstacle if they put their faith in Jesus Christ.”
Kirkpatrick and Stubblefield didn’t just throw the kids out into the Spartan with no preparation. As veteran of several Spartan Races, including the excruciating Beast, the two coaches began preparing the middle schoolers last fall but really stepped up to the training in January. The training alone tested the kids.
“They would be asking, ‘Why are we doing this?’” said Kirkpatrick, referring to when he and Stubblefield pushed them through some regime that was unlike any other physical education exercise they’d experienced. “I’ll admit I was wondering about some of the kids. There were some who, when we started, they couldn’t do one pushup.”
But with the two coaches and each other, the middle school students pushed themselves through the training.
“It was tough,” said eighth-grader Damien Ortiz.
During some of the training runs, a teammate would fall behind, but not for long.
“We’d do this thing called ‘Pick ’em Up,’” said Keegan Kirpatrick, a sixth-grader. “In practice, if somebody was behind or last, we’d all go back to them and encourage them and cheer them on.”
Some of the students brought sports backgrounds with them. But Kelly Kirkpatrick explained that the Spartan Race isn’t like any other sport. It doesn’t rely solely on endurance or strength but on a good mix of the two. So the kids had to develop a good level of both.
While Kirkpatrick and Stubblefield wanted the kids to understand the importance of facing challenges and obstacles, they also hoped they would learn about teamwork and taking care of one another. Out on the course, the group ran together, helping each other over obstacles and urging each other on. When things started getting tough for one of the FBCS Spartan competitors, the rest of the team stood by him or her.
The kids also turned to their faith.
“They know through Christ they can do anything,” Kelly Kirkpatrick said.
Ortiz nodded. “That’s what I was saying to myself through the entire race.”
Having faith, however, doesn’t mean it was easy. Each one of the middle school students pointed out how hard it was to cover the course.
Rhiannon Youngvall pointed out that this was something many adults wouldn’t venture to try, but here they were, a handful of middle school students.
“Sometimes, you have to get out of your comfort zone to get better at something,” she said. The Spartan Race, Youngvall said, was definitely out of her typical comfort zone. “But it was fun.”
Keegan Kirpatrick agreed. If all you did was do the same thing over and over every day, you won’t grow, you won’t get better, he pointed out. A Spartan Race or other challenge puts you in a position to force yourself to grow, not just physically but mentally and spiritually as well.
And that’s what Kelly Kirkpatrick and Stubblefield hoped the kids would get out of the experience.
Standing at the bottom of that 10-foot wall, though, Avery Charlton had her doubts. But she knew two things: She wouldn’t quit and she had teammates there to help her.
“I think there was somebody on each side of me helping me up that wall,” Charlton said. “You can’t give up.”
With the wall behind her, she joined the rest of the FBCS middle school students as they pushed their way to the finish line. When they crossed, Kelly Kirpatrick looked at those smiling faces and knew they had all learned that no matter what life throws at them, with perseverance, hard work and support from teammates and friends, they can accomplish anything.
And faith in God, the coach added.
With this race behind them, their obstacle course days aren’t over. Kirkpatrick said he is looking at a race each spring and fall. This fall could mean traveling to a Spartan Race or competing in the Oct. 3 BattleFrog at Reveille Peak Ranch. Former and current Navy SEALs run the BattleFrog series. Several racers consider it one of the most demanding obstacle course races around.
“It’s something we’re looking at,” Kirkpatrick said.