Back in March 2016, I had the rare privilege of tagging along with four Horned Frogs on a flight to Atlanta, where they represented Texas Christian University on a national athletic stage.
I know that “BattleFrog” sounds like an event tailor-made for TCU students, but it was much bigger than that. Even though we had done our homework and learned as much as we could about the competition, we really had no idea what we were about to experience.
Matthew Barron, a senior from Aledo, TX worked as a personal trainer for Campus Recreation. His training style and previous experience with obstacle course racing made him a shoe-in for this event.
Cody Cox, our other senior who hails from Austin, TX, had been involved with Campus Recreation in some capacity since the beginning of her freshman year. Initially she was part of the weight room staff, but she later spent some time on the climbing wall staff where she picked up some valuable skills for this competition.
Frank Jackson came to us all the way from Philadelphia, PA. He became part of the squad after showing off his speed and jump skills during group workouts with fitness staff. Frank is also a sophomore member of the weight room staff.
The youngest member of the team, Emma Beserra, is just finishing her freshman year at TCU. As a high school cheerleader from The Woodlands, TX, she brought some tumbling and jumping skills to the table. Emma can pretty much always be found in the Rec Center weight room – either working a shift or hitting the weights.
The application process started back in the fall of 2015. After committing to the event early in the fall semester, we finally got around to shooting the audition videos at the last minute. We went high-tech and filmed everything on my cell phone one day late in November. The audition required some standard fitness measures – pushups, pullups, situps, and sprints – and the applicants were asked to introduce themselves and to show off a bit. At this point, our team members still didn’t completely know each other.
I put all of the footage together, added some heavy music, and sent the videos in. Then we waited.
Once we received word that the TCU team had been accepted for the 2016 BattleFrog College Championship, it was time for our team to start training. Matthew, Cody, Frank, and Emma starting getting together about once a week to train for the upcoming event. They even had an opportunity to visit an obstacle training gym in Dallas to play around and try out some weird new challenges. There was still no confirmation on what obstacles they would face at the competition, so they just had to train to be ready for anything.
Finally, March came around and the team was ready to roll. We flew to Atlanta and hopped on a bus to Buford, GA. Our final destination was the Lanier Islands Resort. It was awesome. Not only did our lodging look out over the water, but we spent the next five days hanging out lakeside – we watched yachts and jet skis out on the water, drank more free smoothies than we could count, and contemplated our good fortune as we stared dramatically off into the horizon.
Arriving at Lanier Islands, the team was still pretty unclear about what to expect. As the first day unfolded, we found out that this wasn’t just going to be a college championship, but there would also be a league championship – 16 other teams from around the U.S. and beyond. These teams were made up of athletes from all kinds of different backgrounds – professional OCR racers, ex-NFL players, and Parkour athletes, just to name a few. This turned out to be a blessing as well. Not only did the league competitors offer up a ton of experience and advice, but they were so much fun to watch compete. After a brief introduction and rule rundown, the competitors were handed some new gear and uniforms, and it was off to the course to practice.
This was the first time we had seen the obstacles in person. The competitors had a chance to look at some diagrams and to watch last year’s competition, but nothing compared to seeing the real thing in person. At this point, our team still had not decided who would run which leg of the race. Each race had to begin with a female, then alternate between male and female for each following leg. Our four teammates tried their hand at various obstacles to see which fit their particular skill set. The physical challenges included climbing, jumping, sprinting, balance, and above all else, the ability to overcome fears. They quickly discovered that a full head of steam and a deep trust in your physical abilities were necessary to make it through each obstacle smoothly. I want to be clear when I tell you that all of the pictures and videos of the course and the obstacles do not do it justice. The athletes make it look easy, but when you walk right up next to some of these monster creations it really hits you how difficult they are to overcome, and how gutsy these athletes have to be to make it through.
Competitors were definitely sizing each other up, and everyone was obviously talented. Some athletes were returning from the competition last year, and they carried a pretty serious reputation. Of course we rolled in wearing matching jackets and our game faces, trying to keep the other teams worried about how tough TCU would be to beat. Although everyone at the competition wanted badly to win, no one hesitated to help out fellow athletes. There was an outpouring of support and encouragement that only grew as the competition became more serious. There were tricks to certain obstacles, although not everyone could nail them down, and the competitors spent a lot of time trying to show that their way was the best way or trying out what they saw from other teams. The desire for solid competition outweighed the desire to gain every possible advantage. League competitors helped college competitors and vice versa. I have to brag a little and say that the TCU team definitely turned some heads during these practices, and they graciously handed out some helpful information to other athletes. Each one of our student athletes was able to pull off stunts in their respective obstacle that other competitors either hadn’t thought of or just couldn’t perform.
We made it through four full days of competition. In addition to the TCU races, our team spent hours practicing, hours running alongside other teams to cheer them on, and hours tending to bumps, bruises, and cuts. The weather kept us guessing on a daily basis, and during our time on the course we experienced blistering heat, pouring rain, and what felt like freezing cold. We all made a lot of new friends, zero enemies, and shared in the excitement and heartbreak with the other teams.
But then came the really hard part – we realized we weren’t going to be able to share all of the best details of the competition. The details that you really want to know. That’s where this post has to end. We can’t tell you exactly how well we did, but what I can tell you is that I guarantee it’s worth watching these four TCU Campus Recreation-bred athletes on ESPN at the end of June. You might get about half as excited as I did watching the competition in person, and you may get just a taste of the pride I feel after watching Emma, Frank, Cody, and Matthew leave it all out on the course.
Stay Heavy, & Go Frogs!
Tune into ESPN on June 30, July 1, and July 2 at 8pm ET to see how it all went down.