Battlefrog has taken some heat for more than a few of their business decisions, but I am of the opinion that establishing the Battlefrog College Championships (and this year’s additional pro championship) was a good move for everyone. The super-fast, team relay tournament makes for exciting television and reaches a new and relatively untapped market of college athletes. Because obstacle racing is outside of NCAA purview I have wondered just how involved the universities are in selecting, choosing, and supporting their respective teams. The answer for at least one team is simple: not very much. A group of young OCR addicts self-organized, applied to Battlefrog, was selected, and made it to the tournament without the benefit of any formal training or support. A signature from the appropriate official was the extent of university involvement. Sounds like everything else in the almost rogue-like sport of obstacle racing: discover the passion, make it happen, and ask permission only when necessary. In today’s society of big time college athletics, it is somewhat amazing to think that students representing a university can compete in a televised athletic competition with no coaching or guidance from the school, but that is part of the beauty of this nascent sport.
Addison McCoy and Kiera McEvoy, students at Eastern Kentucky University, got their first taste of obstacle racing at the 2015 Tough Mudder Kentucky and shortly after were looking for further adventure. When the Battlefrog call for applications for season 2 came out, they gathered some friends and entered a video submission that convinced BF to invite them to Atlanta for the mid-March competition.
With only a few months to get ready, Addison, Kiera, and their teammates Brandon Jones and Jeana Denton kicked training into high gear with the ever-popular mixture of running, bodyweight exercises and CrossFit. Like virtually every other obstacle racer before them, they scoured the Internet for articles and videos in an attempt to figure out how to best prepare. They don’t teach you this stuff in college. To my knowledge, there are no endowed OCR professorships available at any university, but if you hear of one let me know immediately.
I spoke with each of the EKU team members separately and the same familiar theme emerged: they tried a race and were immediately addicted. As Jeana told me “this was the first time I had fallen in love with a sport in a long time.” Now they all have plans for future races including Spartan Race Indiana, Battlefrog Louisville, Mud Guts & Glory, and potentially the 2016 OCR World Championships. The OCR bug bites hard and it doesn’t discriminate.
OCR needs more college and high school athletes like Addison, Kiera, Brandon, & Jeana. At least one industry analysis has indicated a decline in obstacle racing participants. Even though the methods of that analysis are debatable, it should be clear that racing companies want and need to increase the market beyond the slew of 30-45 year olds who dominate the OCR demographics. While we often refer to kids and children as the next generation of obstacle racers, that reference is slightly inaccurate. The next generation will actually be coming from the high school and college ranks and the overall participation numbers of that demographic could be greatly increased. What I gleaned from speaking with this group of athletes is that college students are amenable to the sport, if only we can find the right way to attract them. Battlefrog gets an ‘A’ for making the first real inroad to that generation.
Note: The competition is complete and is tentatively set to air at the end of June. For confidentiality reasons, details from the event cannot be shared until after the show has aired. What I can tell you is that they all spoke glowingly of the seasoned racers they met at the event. Not surprising, Amelia Boone, Corinna Coffin, Ryan Atkins, Lindsay Webster, & Jesse Bruce made positive impressions on them.