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Metuchen High plans proving ground on Aug. 19

Photos courtesy of John Cathcart

METUCHEN — Teamwork, character and leadership will be tested at Metuchen High School’s “Proving Ground Team Building Challenge” mud run obstacle course this week.

“This is the first time we’re trying this,” said John Cathcart, Metuchen High School’s Director of Athletics.

The course was designed by Cathcart and Michele McCorkle, Metuchen High’s Athletic Trainer.

“It came about when Michele and I started looking for a leadership series last year,” he said. “We did a certain program and we altered it to the program that we’re doing now. We feel it is unique that no other school in New Jersey has done it on their own campus.”

McCorkle said she and Cathcart pride themselves on “thinking outside the box.”

“We like to set an example for our athletes that no challenge is insurmountable,” she said. “Over the last couple of years, we had discussed and experimented with different ways to foster leadership skills and character development for our student athletes, and as a result, Proving Ground was born.”

More than 200 Metuchen student-athletes are expected to participate in the event at 9 a.m. on Aug. 19 at Metuchen High School, 400 Grove Avenue.

Metuchen High School will transform its campus into a massive obstacle course with more than 30 mentally and physically challenging stations.

The “Proving Ground Team Building Challenge” is modeled after the popular mud run competitions. The event includes obstacles with names such as the Stuntman Climb, Tarzan Swing, Pirate Walk, Whale Watch, Kangaroo Run and Detonator Hill.

Student-athletes will be divided into teams of six to eight members who must work together to scale walls — including a 25-foot high barrier named “Mount Everest” — and must navigate mud pits, jumps and other obstacles.

“If we are going to create teamwork and challenge [the student athletes] to overcome adversity, we are going to have to throw something at them that is outside of their comfort zone and makes them think and work together,” Cathcart said. “We want them to work as a team so that they can overcome any obstacle. By themselves, they are not going to beat this course.”

McCorkle added that the student-athletes will confront obstacles and challenges they have never seen before and figure out how to solve problems.

“A lot of these obstacles are going to be more mentally intimidating than physically challenging,” she said. “Some obstacles focus on strategy rather than strength.”

McCorkle said with the obstacle course, she and Cathcart are looking for teamwork, strategy and leadership.

“Sometimes you have to scale back on the physical exertion to let some of those things shine a little brighter,” she said.

Each challenging obstacle is designed with safety in mind, Cathcart said. The Metuchen Fire Department and First Aid Squad will be on hand at the event.

The student-athletes will convene at the high school on the eve of the event for a pasta party when a motivational speech and final instructions will be given.

The student athletes who participate in the event, whether as a competitor or a volunteer, will receive credit toward one team sports practice.

Cathcart said throughout the 2017-18 academic year, community leaders will address Metuchen High’s student athletes, which is an integral component of the “Proving Ground Team Building Challenge.”

Money raised through the sale of promotional items and food will benefit The Marisa Tufaro Foundation, a nonprofit corporation whose mission is to help children in need throughout the greater Middlesex County area.

The foundation was established in the memory of Marisa Tufaro, a 13-year-old student at Herbert Hoover Middle School in Edison.

A heart transplant, which was supposed to extend Marisa’s life, tragically cut it short after a postoperative complication developed into a rare form of stage four cancer. Marisa died in January following a valiant battle.

Marisa’s paternal grandparents graduated from Metuchen High School and she is buried at Hillside Cemetery in the borough.

Representatives from the foundation, including Marisa’s parents, will be at the event.

Cathcart said a number of businesses inside and outside the borough have provided financial support for building materials and other expenses, including Metuchen Savings Bank, which is the primary sponsor of the event.

Additional sponsors and donors include Metuchen Chamber of Commerce, Metuchen Sports Center, Hailey’s Pub, Electro Watchman Alarm, McCorkle Baseball, Metuchen Senior Center, Connections Personnel Inc., Metuchen-Edison Orthopedic Group, Bagel Pantry, Gatorade, Runner’s High, What’s the Scoop, Two Chicks with Chocolate, Torino’s Restaurant, Antonio’s, Fresco’s, Mangia Toscano, Mom’s Food and Beverage and Eat Clean Bro.

The mud run event will also feature games, raffle prizes, food and beverages.

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