Fun, games and hard workNew summer workout program inspires Northwood and Solon Springs student-athletes
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
A new sport was born Wednesday as more than a dozen high school students grappled for possession of a watermelon.
Standing about chest deep in the waters of Little Sand Lake near Wascott, the students moved back and forth in a huddle as they worked to score a touchdown. More than once the “football” squirted away, and students splashed after it to claim possession.
“That was a new one,” said Jacob Dahlberg, a senior at Northwood School. “I was told it was going to be watermelon football. I didn’t know about the Vaseline.”
Dahlberg was among the 17 students taking part in a day of fun and exercise Wednesday as part of Northwood’s summer strength and conditioning program. Freshmen and seniors, boys and girls, three-sport athletes and newcomers all mingled together for the three-hour workout and picnic.
The event also mixed together students from two schools districts, with 10 participating from Northwood and seven participating from Solon Springs.
“Fifty years ago it was a battle between these two schools,” said Brian Trettin, Evergreens head football coach. Now Northwood and Solon Springs have co-op teams in a number of sports, including football.
The Northwood-Solon Springs football team finished second in the Small Lakeland Conference in 2011 and ended the season with a 8-2 record. The season highlight for the Evergreens was a 27-8 victory over Shell Lake — a team that had outscored them 196-20 in the past five meetings.
Coach Trettin was named the Green Bay Packers High School Coach of the Week following the win, and the Evergreens closed out the regular season on an eight-game winning streak.
“They understood last year what it takes to win, and that had a lot to do with offseason work,” Trettin said.
At this week’s fitness day, Trettin used his coaching contact days to help instruct the students. Dennis Mertzig typically leads the summer workouts. He has acted as a volunteer strength and conditioning coach for the football team for the past year, but Trettin, a 2001 graduate of Superior High School, still occasionally refers to him as “my elementary school principal.”
“I know he doesn’t want me to say anything, but we couldn’t have done this without him,” Trettin said. “He’s donated so much of his time and energy.”
Mertzig took the lead for this week’s workout and picnic, Trettin said, and the event was held at Mertzig’s home near Wascott.
Mertzig also leads morning workouts for the Solon Springs and Northwood students during the summer. Those sessions begin at 6 a.m. and last for two hours, and so far, they have been very well attended.
“We kind of just know the right time to ease off and the right time to push it,” Mertzig said.
For Wednesday’s event, students played watermelon football, moved rocks and pulled weeds from Little Sand Lake. Out of the water they ran sprints and did plenty of push-ups.
The kids also trained with two-by-fours — an idea Mertzig borrowed from his son, who was training for deployment in Afghanistan at the time. The students do various lifts with the lumber, mix in a few push-ups and then run or jog while still carrying their boards.
“Walker Lumber donated the two-by-fours, and now he (Trettin) takes his sixth-graders out for phy. ed., and they want to take the two-by-fours,” Mertzig said. “It is amazing. They’re all smiling.”
On Wednesday, the high school students carried their two-by-fours to the bottom of “Cupcake Hill” for their workout. The final segment of the exercise had the students running up the hill with their two-by-fours tucked under one arm or draped across their shoulders.
“It was a good workout, but it was fun at the same time,” said Brandon Wilcox, a senior at Northwood and member of the football team. “It was a tough one but I think everyone did really good. We worked well as a team, and I actually had fun. I think the whole team had fun.”
Members of the Wascott Fire Department provided a treat for the students during the Cupcake Hill exercise. Mike Johansen and Mary Flamang volunteered their time to man a fire hose and waited at the top of the hill to cool down the runners.
Dahlberg said the cold spray from the fire hose gave him something to look forward to during his eight treks up Cupcake Hill. He said running the hill was the most challenging part of the day, but also the most fun.
“Once you got to the top there was always something nice getting sprayed down,” he said.
That attitude is what Trettin hopes students will develop through the strength and conditioning program. He said the summer workouts are as much about building character as building muscle.
“We want to give the kids an idea of perseverance,” Trettin said. “We work hard, but we also have fun.”
“This will be a yearly thing, for sure,” Mertzig said. “This will be the ‘Northwood Picnic.’”