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Teams are up for the Michaux Team Challenge

October 27, 2003|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

FAYETTEVILLE, Pa. - Experience just barely won out over youth Sunday in the inaugural Michaux Team Challenge as a four-member team of adults edged out a foursome of Chambersburg Area Senior High School students and their German teacher.

Sutliff Hummer trekked, paddled and cycled its way to a winning time of two hours, 27 minutes and 27 seconds in the 20-mile event that began with a crush and ended with a crash, although no one was seriously hurt. Seventy-one seconds behind them came the Deutsche Superstars, four high school cross country runners led by teacher Paul Unruh in their first foray into adventure racing.

It was as much a testament to teamwork as a test of skills, as each team was only as strong as its weakest link in any leg of the course.

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"Those teen teams gave us a run for our money," said Donna Mummert of Carlisle, Pa., captain of the Hummer team, sponsored by a Mechanicsburg, Pa., dealership. The team does adventure racing, marathons, mountain bike races and other events, drawing on more than a dozen members who can bring various skills to a variety of competitions.

"Adventure races are not new. They're all over the world," said Jim Nicholas, one of the organizers of the event sponsored by the Chambersburg YMCA. While adventure races can last for days, the Michaux Team Challenge was scheduled for five hours, since most of the entrants were novices.

Nevertheless, no team took more than four hours to cover the challenging course.

The event drew 11 teen teams, including seven for boys, three for girls and a co-ed squad, each with four members and an adult captain, according to Michele Sheppard, assistant executive director at the YMCA. There also were five adult teams registered, but one, the South Mountain Velo Club, dropped out when one of its members went into the hospital over the weekend.

Rage, a team from King Street United Brethren Church in Chambersburg, finished first among the teen girls' squads. St. John's Youth Ministry was first in the co-ed category.

One of the girls' teams, Ja-Ha-La-Ka-Va, went co-ed within moments of the start when a member got trampled at the beginning of the race. Karli Kegerreis got tripped up and stepped on, suffering a loosened tooth, according to teammate Hannah Lacy.

The name of the team came from the first syllable the members' first names, according to Betsy Schoonover, mother of team member Laura Schoonover. The girls attend Faust Junior High School in Chambersburg, except Kegerreis, who attends St. Maria Goretti in Hagerstown.

While Kegerreis was checked out by Dr. Michael Gaudiose, the other teams were moving ahead and Ja-Ha-La-Ka-Va, now minus the "Ka," did not get going until about 13 minutes after the 10 a.m. start. Michael Schoonover, Laura's brother, came in off the sidelines as a substitute.

The race ended with a scary moment as a member of the last-place team, the girls squad from VisionQuest, locked up her brakes and went over the handlebars at the finish line. Gaudiose said her injuries appeared to be minor, but she was taken to Chambersburg Hospital for X-rays as a precaution.

Despite the injuries, and a lot of sore muscles likely being felt this morning, Gaudiose said the event was "a wonderful thing, because one of the big issues we're dealing with in this country ... is the declining level of fitness in kids."

The race began with a six-mile hike over mountain trails to the Long Pine Reservoir, where each group boarded white-water rafts for a mile or so of paddling. Then it was onto their bicycles for 13 miles up and down the mountains and back to the starting point.

Thanks to their background in distance running, the Deutsche Superstars completed the hike in just 67 minutes. "We ran most of it," said Stan Sollenberger, the team's only senior.

Sutliff Hummer, however, was just four minutes behind getting into the rafts and made up some time on the lake.

"We didn't catch these guys until the last few miles on the bikes," Mummert said of the Superstars.

The state forest's Ridge Road turned into Heartbreak Hill for the Superstars. Sollenberger said it was the uphill bike climb where the team finally relinquished its lead.

"You know it," Kyle Keath of the Superstars said when asked if they intend to enter again next year.

"We're going to take it," said teammate Steve Yeager.

"We were so close to taking it all this year. We really wanted it," said Stu Godlasky.

Members of Ja-Ha-La-Ka-Va, the youngest team in the race, said they plan to be back next year and hope to profit from what they learned.

"You have to stick together if someone falls behind," Lacy said.

"Even if something unexpected happens, you have to keep on going," said Valerie Faust. "I'd do it in a heartbeat. It's a really great feeling of accomplishment."

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