Blue Jays Excel in the Extreme
Zumba. Crossfit. Running through a cloud of colored cornstarch? There is something out there for everyone in the modern athletic sphere. Whether you want to push yourself to the limit or just get a healthier body, stepping out of your comfort zone and into a new challenge can unlock a passion you didn’t know was there and inspire you to chase something truly exciting.
The Statue of Liberty means many things to many people—hope, freedom, the proof that long dresses look great with sandals—but to Louise Hyder-Darlington it served as the call to a challenge. Hyder-Darlington, Elizabethtown’s access services librarian in the High Library, loves the water. Not in the way that a teenager loves his or her smartphone or the Internet loves cats, but more akin to how a human being needs oxygen. “Water, to me, is just the place where I feel most at home. I’m connected to it—on an elemental level,” Hyder-Darlington said. However, on a brisk evening this past August, the water and the famous statue combined into a formidable challenge. Hyder-Darlington had signed up to swim around Liberty Island as part of the Statue of Liberty Swim.
“With only 45 minutes to complete the event, I trained for months in the pool and in a lake in order to get my body ready,” she said. “This swim is something I really felt like I was waiting to do my whole life, and I wanted to make sure I got what I wanted out of it.” The training paid off because 41 minutes after her start, Hyder-Darlington became one of the 288 out of 350 entrants who completed the race.
While Hyder-Darlington finds her athletic nirvana in the water, others prefer to get a little dirty. This is a fitting motto for Wyatt Eaton ’10, E-town’s athletic communications assistant. While a student-athlete at Elizabethtown College, Eaton was a runner on the track-and-field team. He has since traded in the 400-meter sprint for the Tough Mudder. Combining a distance run with extreme obstacles, such as frigid water, pipe crawls, wall climbs and the occasional electric shock, the Tough Mudder is a feat for even the fit. Since his first race in 2010, Eaton has competed in six Tough Mudders. His race companions are E-town alums.
“Water, to me, is just the place where I feel most at home. I’m connected to it— on an elemental level.” –Louise Hyder-Darlington
“A friend of mine emailed a few of us asking if we wanted to give this a shot,” said Eaton. “From there it just took off. I think what we like best is that we always bring out the best in one another. It’s all about camaraderie with a competitive balance. You can’t finish without teamwork, but you don’t want to hold the team back so you always try to give it your all.” This combination of personal accountability and teamwork served him well this past November when Eaton participated in the World’s Toughest Mudder, a 24-hour endurance race designed to test the limits of even the most experienced extreme athlete.
Much like Eaton, Erik Cianci ’16, an international business major at Elizabethtown, is drawn to what most would consider daunting obstacle courses. Cianci is training to be the youngest competitor to complete the GORUCK Selection, a 48-hour challenge that mirrors the the physical trials of military survival training. “Selection only has a 10-percent completion rate, which is the same as Army Special Forces and Navy Seal training. You’re out there against the elements and against yourself,” Cianci said.
While this challenge could induce some to hit the snooze button a few extra times that day, Cianci is ready to go. As a GORUCK veteran, he is approaching this challenge undaunted. Last February he participated in an event in the freezing Delaware River, pushing through a leg injury to finish and, in September, he was a finisher in the GORUCK Nasty in Philadelphia.
The Nasty tested his mettle over a 7-mile course beset by challenges that are designed to bring participants face-to-face with their fears. They are subject to, among other things, heights, enclosed spaces and darkness. If these challenges seem excessive, it is because GORUCK was founded by former special forces soldiers and is run by ex-military members. To Cianci, though, this is all part of a greater calling. “I really feel drawn to GORUCK because of my desire to serve my country in the military,” he said. “If I can keep taking down these races, I think I’ll have a pretty good chance to make it as a soldier.”
Thanks to events like GORUCK and Tough Mudder, pushing boundaries seems to go hand in hand with staying fit for the modern athlete. That certainly is the case for Ashley Fisher ’14 and Alana DeLuca ’06. Not only are these women pushing themselves to the limit with some extreme workout regimens, they are using their talents to help change the lives of others. Fisher, an eFit coordinator for the Elizabethtown College Office of Student Activities, already was helping her fellow students achieve better health by organizing classes at a nearby fitness club but, last year, she discovered a workout which she said redefined everything she knew about exercise.
“About a year ago I got introduced to Pound and I just loved it,” said Fisher, of the workout routine that combines isometric poses and plyometrics with the constant cardio workout. The exercise comes from hitting quarter-pound Ripstix drumsticks against the floor, the walls or themselves while jamming to fast-paced music. “As soon as I tried, it I knew I wanted to bring it to E-town, so I went to Pittsburgh to get certified.” Pound is growing quickly in popularity, not only due to its effectiveness, but also because it’s fun. The program started out as a once-a-week class, but Fisher had so much demand for Pound that she had to add a second night to accomodate the more than 150 or so participants. “We even had to order more sticks!” she said.
As a social work major, Fisher sees Pound as a way to help others live better lives mentally and physically. After graduation she plans to see if there is a way to incorporate her ripsticking moves into therapy for troubled kids.
While Fisher hits surfaces with sticks, De Luca hits people into surfaces. De Luca, or “Liberty Violence,” as she is known to her fans, is a Roller Derby girl. This rapidly growing sport and its fanatical fans create the perfect home for this fun-loving, green-haired Blue Jay.
“It makes me smile knowing that I am living my dream and inspiring others as well,” she said. “When little girls come up to me after a bout and ask for my autograph, I feel like I’m telling them to push as hard as they can to achieve their own dream.”
I didn’t know I could do this until after I tried.
Thanks to Roller Derby, De Luca has experienced an incredible change in her lifestyle. “College life can take its toll, especially late-night Taco Bell runs,” admitted De Luca. “I’ve lost 100 pounds with Derby, but it’s also my reason to get in better shape. You have to work on your strength, speed and your endurance or you won’t last very long.” Still, it is not the speed, the danger, the thrill or even the positive effects on her physique that keep De Luca so invested in this sport. Instead, it is the way that this community of Derby girls takes care of one another. “We just had a fundraiser for a friend who is only 32 and fighting cancer for the second time,” De Luca said. “We raised almost $4,000 for her. It was supposed to be a tournament, but we were having so much fun that we just kind of got into the moment and it turned into a massive scrimmage. “The fun; that’s really my favorite part,” said De Luca who is living out her dream as a member of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Roller Radicals.
The accomplishments of Hyder-Darlington, Eaton, Cianci, Fisher and De Luca are changing the way people look at athletics. With each new race, challenge, workout and competition, they are helping create a novel landscape that will help others find their own surprise passions. “I didn’t know I could do this until after I tried,” said De Luca. “I gave it my all the first time and won people over with my enthusiasm.”
If De Luca and the rest are an indication, you don’t need tech shirts with a sleeve for your smartphone, sweat-wicking socks or shoes that are made of material that didn’t even exist two years ago. You just need to find what makes you grin.