As the fall semester comes to an end, the Diamond Dukes took part in a unique team-building task coined the "Omaha Challenge" on Friday, Nov. 30. The activity included four separate sections designed to mimic the rigors of a run to the College World Series. This challenge required physical effort, mental fortitude and teamwork in order to achieve overall team synergy towards a common goal.
The team broke into four groups of eight while needing a well-rounded group in order to combat the tasks ahead. The afternoon began with a one-mile run, which was scored in cross country team scoring fashion. That was followed by a team challenge of situps and pushups. From there, the teams hit the field for a group activity of overcoming obstacles. The afternoon concluded with a trivia challenge.
After four "Gold Standard Dukes" (a status earned for high achievement during offseason conditioning) drafted their teams, they developed a strategy to succeed in the upcoming challenges they would face. "I started out wanting to go with team speed, but I also wanted team strength as well", said Colby Roberts, captain of the champion Black Team.
The Gold Team started off strong as five of their team members finished in the top ten in the mile race. Ty McFarland led the pack, clocking in at 5:06, with Cole McInturff (second), Aaron Hoover (fourth), Kyle Weston (eighth) and Conner Brown (ninth) crossing the finish line soon after. The Black Team finished second with Colby Roberts and Chad Carroll in the top ten, White finished third with Tyler Duke and Ben Garner in top ten and purple finishing last with only Tyler Carroll finishing 10th.
The second event consisted of each team executing a plan to complete 1,159 pushups and 1159 situps as a team. The number 1,159 signifies the number of miles from Veterans Memorial Park in Harrisonburg to Omaha, Nebraska, where they hope to compete in the College World Series in June. The key to success in this challenge was identifying the golden number of repetitions that each team member should perform in order to avoid exertion in the endurance activity. For the Black Team, that number was 15, a strategy that won them the event in the shortest amount of time with 25:56. Second was the Gold team with 26:08 followed by White in Third and Purple in Fourth.
The next event was the ultimate team-building challenge labeled the "Road to Omaha". This event required each team to build a road from the warning to the infield of the baseball field, using weight plates. The trick was, players could only step on the weight plates during this exercise, and not the turf, or else the whole team would be sent back to their starting point. All players wore their backpacks, full with all their game day equipment including their bat, spikes, gloves and helmets. Each team also had to pass a bucket of balls, a water cooler filled with water, a fifty pound sandbag and three 12-pound medicine balls down their line while also maneuvering over a hurdle with all their equipment. "Just watching them starting to think and getting their ideas and starting to talk and communicate", noted coach Spanky McFarland on his favorite part of watching the challenges. By utilizing communication, leadership, balance and strength, the Black team was able to finish first despite their initial struggles collaborating in the planning stage. Purple finished second with White third and Gold fourth.
Dukes Baseball Trivia was the last of four events and was designed to test each team's knowledge of the JMU baseball program and history. Coach McFarland described it as "taking pride in your program and knowing about the great players that passed". Of the 100 questions, some included JMU and CAA facts as well. The Purple team finished on top with 96 correct answers, followed by Gold with 89, White with 88 and Black with 86.
Concluding these events, the numbers were totaled to unveil the champions. The Black team edged Gold by a score of 24.75 to 23.125 and Purple with 20 and White with 19 points. The Black team, which included Colby Roberts, Billy Logan, Nick Merullo, Matt Tenaglia, Chad Carroll, Michael Howerton, Johnny Bladel and Bobby San Martin, was awarded with Gold Standard T-shirts as a result of their win.
The activity was the final organized event of the semester for the Diamond Dukes, who head into semester exams and the holiday break. Upon returning in January, JMU will resume team preparations for the season-opening series Feb. 15-17 against Coastal Carolina.