East Ridge football: Ready for combatOn the first day of the fall high school sports season across Minnesota, the East Ridge football team got a small taste of what it takes to be a Marine — and came together a little bit more in the process.
By: Patrick Johnson, Staff Writer, Woodbury Bulletin
On the first day of the fall high school sports season across Minnesota, the East Ridge football team got a small taste of what it takes to be a Marine — and came together a little bit more in the process.
Local Marines from the 9th Marine Corps District helped the Raptors kick off the 2011 football season with the Marine Corps Combat Fitness Test (CFT) on Monday, Aug. 15, at East Ridge High School.
East Ridge head coach Mike Pendino said he and his coaching staff were looking for a team-building competition for their conditioning test this year. It just so happened that Sergeant Dae Kim, a Marine recruiter out of the Woodbury office, stopped by East Ridge one day and told them about the CFT. So, Pendino decided to give it a shot.
“It’s a tough, tough thing to do,” Pendino said. “But, no one is quitting, everyone is hanging in there and the kids are helping each other. That’s what we’re trying to do here today — trying to build the team, help each other, work with each other and understand they can give a lot more than what they think they can give. It’s all about finishing.”
The CFT is intended to keep Marines ready for the physical rigors of contemporary combat operations. In the CFT, the East Ridge players were put through a series of three separate drills just like the Marines do each year. First, the Raptors players sprinted a timed 880 yards, then they each lifted a 30-pound ammunition can overhead from shoulder height repeatedly for two minutes, and, finally, performed a maneuver-under-fire event — an obstacle-course style timed 300-yard shuttle run that included a series of combat-related tasks, including a “buddy carry.”
The CFT is a semi-annual requirement for active-duty Marines and an annual requirement for reserve Marines.
Despite being in great shape, a number of the players were noticeably exhausted after the CFT was over — sprawled out on the grass or tossing their cookies behind trees.
“That was harder than anything I’ve ever done,” East Ridge senior running back Val Huerta said. “It pushed your body really hard. During it, you’re like ‘man, this is killing me,’ but after it, you’re glad you did it, because you feel good about yourself. The whole thing was fun.”
Huerta said the obstacle course was the toughest event for him, “by far.”
“After you carry the guy on your back and go all the way down the field, once you have him off you, your legs are just dead, so then by the time you carry the 30-pound ammo boxes you’re just shot and have to really push yourself,” Huerta said.
East Ridge senior lineman Marcus Kelly said he’s never done anything like the CFT.
“This is fun, but it was really tiring,” Kelly said. “I’m pretty winded right now, I’m not going to lie.”
Kelly said the 880-meter run was the hardest part for him.
“I did not like that 880,” said the 6’ 2”, 240-pound Kelly, “I’m a big guy and it was tough. I’m in shape, but us linemen don’t run a lot of those.”
Pendino said East Ridge’s Raptor Speed and Strength summer conditioning program helped his players get in shape for the season and he was happy with how his players looked at the CFT.
“We had a pretty good Raptor Speed and Strength Program and we knew at least half this many would be in this good of shape and the other half are surprising us,” Pendino said.
Players that totaled a certain score in the CFT will be put in the Raptor Claw Club and will be recognized before East Ridge’s first game of the year.
Pendino said lessons learned from the CFT far surpassed the gridiron.
“This is going to help them with everything they do in life, not just football,” Pendino said. “You go out there for a job interview and you have to finish. Things aren’t always going to go your way, but you have to persevere and keep going and that’s what they are doing.”