Summer camp a unique experience for Ephrata runners

By on August 5, 2015
 Ephrata runners head down a trail in Hershey during their week-long summer camp.

Ephrata runners pose for a photo at the Jigger Shop in Mt. Gretna during summer camp.

Ephrata has built one of the more successful cross country programs in the L-L League. A year ago, the girls finished 20-1 in the regular season while the boys’ team was 19-2. Both squads took third overall at the L-L League Championships.
While talent certainly plays a part in the team’s overall success, pride, being part of an extended family and commitment to the program are also big factors.
And the seeds of all of those things are planted during their unique, summer camp, which took place July 13-16.
Rather than attending a traditional camp, the Ephrata coaching staff led by Head Coach Mike Hershberger and assistant Mike Delpiano put together a program that not only allowed them to work on their running skills but brought the team closer together.
“I have been the head coach for five years, and each of those years, we had some kind of camp,” Hershberger said. “We had the camp at Messiah College a few years, a year in northern PA, and a couple years in Ephrata. The top teams we focus on each year (Hempfield, Solanco, McCaskey) all do something similar to start building their teams at the same time. We are very fortunate to have Mike Delpiano as part of our coaching staff. Mr Delpiano is a high school teacher who has a some time over the summer. He has the knowledge and time to do most of the planning for the logistics of the camp.”
The camp began Monday, July 13 when the team traveled to Mount Gretna for an evening trail run, followed by ice cream at the Jigger Shop. The team then reconvened the next morning at 7 a.m. when they traveled to Blue Marsh Lake for a trail run, followed by swimming before the evening was capped off when they watched the new cross country movie, “McFarland USA,” as a team.
Day Three began when the team met and ran trails in Hershey. And on Thursday, the final day, the squad met at 7 a.m. once again and ran trails at Ephrata Township Park, followed by a goal-setting session and pool party/cookout.
The camp officially came to a close Thursday night when parents of the runners organized a Candy Crush Run, which featured runners forming groups and navigating through Ephrata to different parents’ homes. At each house, the athletes had to either perform a mental or physical obstacles. Obstacles ranged from carrying water balloons up a 200-yard driveway, to searching through whip cream pies with no hands, to trivia. If the course was navigated correctly, the athletes ran 10.1 miles.
The goal for the week was to build a team that relies on and supports each other. In every sport, cross country included, competing as an individual is much more difficult than having a team that can rely on their teammates.
Jordan Carvell summed up the week well.
“The team camp allowed us to really get to know each other, and it allowed us to go from a group of athletes to a family,” she said.
Attending the camp also took a great commitment from the team, according to Hershberger, who saw 20 to 30 athletes compete for the week.
“Commitment from the athletes in camp and summer running in general is very important from a conditioning and competitive standpoint,” he said. “All of the running over the summer, including camp, is optional. The strong commitment of the athletes over the time they don’t really have to run has impressed me every year I have coached.”
“The fall season is very short, so we need to start the transition into the more intense speed workouts almost as soon as the season starts,” he continued. “The easy summer running allows the athletes to transition into the faster running and avoid the injuries from starting too fast. Our Jr. High program, led by Greg Romig and Emily Sensenig, do a great job in explaining the value of the summer running to the athletes at a young age, while making running fun.”
Both squads are picked to challenge in the L-L League once again this season. And Hershberger is hoping the team bonding and training at camp as well as the summer running are the first building blocks that will hopefully lead them to another successful campaign.
“No matter the sport, success is very difficult if you don’t have teammates that can rely on each other,” Hershberger said. “This is especially true in cross country. A lot of teams have a few good runners. However it takes five runners to win in cross country. If one runner has a bad day, you need the sixth, seventh, or eighth runner to step up. By having a close team that trains together, the whole group is running a race together. On most teams, the success of the team is dependent on the fourth or fifth runner doing well. That places a lot of pressure on those runners, especially since the top couple runners are the athletes who get the majority of attention on those teams. The bond that is built in camp and over the summer takes that pressure off of the fourth and fifth runner and creates the mentality of creating an entire team approach to competing and not an approach of five individuals competing.”
Ephrata opens the season September 8 at Annville-Cleona.

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