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Student athletes challenged, encouraged during Iowa National Guard Fitness Camp

GTNS photo by Grace King

Avante Henry, a 2019 graduate from Mt. Pleasant Community High School, does burpees at the Iowa National Guard Fitness Camp in Middletown on Wednesday, June 12. Henry enlisted in the Army in December 2018, and thought the fitness camp would be a good opportunity to get in shape before he ships out for basic training in September.
GTNS photo by Grace King Avante Henry, a 2019 graduate from Mt. Pleasant Community High School, does burpees at the Iowa National Guard Fitness Camp in Middletown on Wednesday, June 12. Henry enlisted in the Army in December 2018, and thought the fitness camp would be a good opportunity to get in shape before he ships out for basic training in September.
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MIDDLETOWN — Rain Wednesday morning, June 12, didn’t stop students attending the Iowa National Guard Fitness Camp in Middletown from heading outside for another day of military-style workouts.

Jason Wesley, with the Iowa National Guard, said that as long as there isn’t lightening, the Guard and students are working out outside. It’s about mental toughness and cultivating a “no excuses” attitude, he said.

The annual Iowa National Guard Fitness Camp was June 11 to June 14 this year, bringing an average of 120 students from southeast Iowa to hear motivational guest speakers from the Army’s World Class Athlete Program and inspirational messages from Guard members.

“We want to provide the opportunity to show the youth of this area a good time,” Wesley said. “It’s a summer camp. It keeps them out of trouble, keeps high school student athletes working out and engaged and the coaches love it for their teams.”

Wesley said that the camp is also a way to spread the message of the National Guard and to introduce students to the option of enlisting in the Guard after high school.

The workout on Wednesday was “Music Appreciation.” For each song played, students had to do a series of reps. For example, during AC/DC’s Thunderstruck, students had to do a burpee every time they heard the word “thunder.”

After a song concluded, the students sprinted around the Iowa National Guard building before another song began with a new set of reps.

Scott McCarty, head football coach at Winfield-Mt. Union High School, brought a few students to the camp for the first time this year. He said it’s a great physical and mental challenge for his athletes and an opportunity to get the students out of their comfort zone.

“It’s cool to watch athletes complete what they think is impossible,” McCarty said. “Hopefully, by word-of-mouth, we can get a few more students to participate next year.”

Jared Arnold, 17, a Winfield-Mt. Union student, said that he came to the fitness camp expecting to do really well.

“I do it to better myself for all sports,” Arnold said.

Avante Henry, a 2019 graduate from Mt. Pleasant Community High School, signed up for the camp to help prepare him before he ships out for basic training in September.

Henry said that the Guard members at the camp and World Class Athletes build up the students and encourage them to do better and work harder.

“I heard about it and thought, ‘I’ve got to do that. It’s going to be a good time,’” Henry said. “I feel prepared for basic. When things get rough, I’m able to push through. Some of these workouts are hard.

“I just wish there were more people here,” Henry continued. “They’re missing out.”

Claire Hellman, 17, of Ft. Madison, also will leave for basic training in September. Thanks to the fitness camp, she said she feels like she has a “leg up” for basic.

“The workouts are harder than I would do at home,” Hellman said. “You’re challenged to hold yourself accountable to do all the reps. You don’t want to let yourself down.”

Cayleigh Smith, 17, of Ft. Madison, signed up for the fitness camp to support Hellman. She said it’s cool to see what her friend Hellman will experience at basic training.

“I’m proud of her,” Smith said.

Jacob Bland, 16, Payton Cline, 16, Brecken Courtright, 16, and Logan Adam, 16, with the Fairfield High School wrestling team, encouraged each other and pushed each other to work harder during the fitness camp.

Adam said that the camp is fun, and it’s important to stay in shape for wrestling season.

Bland said there are times during the fitness camp when it would be easy to skip reps and no one would notice, but that would be cheating himself of the full workout.

Cline said he enjoys the challenge.

“I think it’s fun and a really good physical challenge,” Cline said.

Courtright said that the wrestling coaches push the team hard in the wrestling room, so he’s used to a vigorous workout.

“It’s a lot of fun and it’s pushing me to be better,” Courtright said.