Participants in the third annual Catalyst celebrate the conclusion of the event on Friday. The Pilot/Jef Hatch
More than three miles of up-and-down hills, sandy paths and wet foggy conditions faced the competitors in the Brookings-Harbor High School football team’s third annual Catalyst. And that was before the plunge into Pistol River to reach the finish line.
Members of the BHHS football team, the U.S. Coast Guard Chetco River Station, Brookings Police Department, Oregon State Police and Brookings Fire Department faced off early Friday morning for personal satisfaction – and bragging rights – until the Catalyst returns in a year.
The Catalyst is the brainchild of assistant football coach Ted Burdett who has been putting new twists into the event every year for the last three years.
“I spend days putting this together,” Burdett explained. “I think about it every day when I drive back and forth to work, and start mentally planning it in the spring.”
This years’ Catalyst brought a new twist: Inviting members of police and fire agencies and the Coast Guard to put together teams to compete against the Bruin football squads.
“I thought it was outstanding – what a great challenge,” Oregon State Police Sgt. Scott Punch said. “The opportunity to come out with these kids and be here to support them was just great.”
Punch was in good company: On his team were two Brookings Fire department members; two members of the Brookings Police Department; two fellow Oregon State Police troopers; and the dedicated wife of one of the troopers who wrapped up the event by running an extra mile to retrieve the squad vehicle for the trip home.
The other non-high school team involved in the challenge was made up of five members of the Coast Guard, including BM3 Jake Bartholomew.
“It was a lot of fun,” Bartholomew said. “The Coast Guard does something like this up north, but this one was harder.”
The Coast Guard team turned in the fastest time, even after they waited to complete the swimming portion until they made sure all the other competitors had safely crossed the Pistol River.
“We killed it,” Bartholomew said. “Everybody went super fast and didn’t quit.”
Head Football Coach Joe Morin was grateful for the teams that came out to support the Bruins.
“It was awesome,” Morin said. “Seeing the different role models support the kids, and Burdett putting the whole thing together, and the parents bringing protein shakes for everybody, was just awesome.”
Awesome seemed to be the descriptor for the day as one of the squad captains, Ethan Williams, used it to describe how things went.
“Pretty awesome overall,” Williams said. And when asked how he felt about Burdett putting the event together for them he responded, “It’s awesome that he was able to do it for us.”
Another of the squad captains, Alec Darger, claimed it was a great experience for the younger guys and those who hadn’t been before.
“It was a great team building experience,” he added.
The Catalyst was designed to build the inherent characteristics of pride, honor and respect that make up part of the BHHS athletic code.
Throughout the course were stations that were intended to strengthen the individual and test the team’s ability to problem solve together.
Some of the stations involved pure luck. At one point they had to choose one of two paths – one led the team in a circle back to the starting point, the other took them further into the event.
Other stations had the team do push-ups, pull-ups and sit-ups; run to the top of a hill; carry a 5-foot-diameter ball across a lagoon; and dig through a bucket of sand and pull out a football without removing any sand.
While the event was designed to tax the teams physically, it was also designed to strengthen them mentally and morally.
“Above everything else remember this,” a placard Burdett placed at the beginning of the trail said. “Your athletic ability will eventually wane and erode over time but your character endures for a lifetime. Hone your character to become a righteous and upstanding person.”