The past year hasn’t offered many opportunities for teenagers to get together and work as teams, but this weekend that changed for 130 young men from Katy, who participated in a grueling, muddy obstacle course in George Bush Park.
Similar to a Spartan or Tough Mudder race, the Stripling Warrior Race entailed physical obstacles including a wall climb, spear throw, tire flip and mud crawl. But it also had an added twist. The boys who took part had to memorize scripture and were also charged with working as teams. Many of the challenges could only be overcome by working together and if one member of the team failed, then all of the boys would be disqualified. This was particularly hard given that the teams were deliberately arranged to contain a broad range of sizes, ages and abilities.
Hal Mead from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who organized the event, explained, “Of course we wanted to get the young men together in a COVID safe way and allow them to have fun, but it was about much more than that. We wanted them to be forced to work together as teams, with people who they may not know very well. We wanted them to learn that true success only comes when we enable others to succeed as well.”
The race was named after a group of young men who lived in ancient America. When as teenagers their country fell into a brutal civil war, they volunteered to fight despite an overwhelming enemy and zero experience in warfare. The record states that due to their exceptional obedience and goodness, they were blessed with Divine strength and not one of them was killed in battle. “Just like the Stripling Warriors, we saw so many of the boys helping one another and putting the team before themselves,” says Mead.
One such young man was 12 year-old Riker who was sure he wanted to quit many times throughout the race, but whose team wouldn’t give up on him and at times literally carried him around the 2.5 mile course. Boys aged 11-18 years old were cheering and chanting his name as he dragged himself through the final mud crawl and onto the finish line.
After the team races, any one that wanted to could participate in a competitive sprint through the course. 17-year old Jaren came in first place in spite of slipping and losing his lead at one point. His mother, Jennifer, recalls, “Honestly the moment I was most proud of my boy wasn’t when he won, but when he told the boys on his team to literally climb on his back so they could each scale the wall.”
Because the event was spread over tens of acres and the teams had staggered start times and small numbers, the gathering remained safe and the boys came away with no injuries apart from a few scrapes and bruises. The event will be held in April for any girls aged 11-18 that would like to participate.
The Church of Jesus Christ has around 4,000 members in the Katy area and has a thriving youth program for young people aged 11-18. Anyone is welcome to come along and participate.
To read more about The Stripling Warriors and find other inspirational stories, go to www.comeuntochrist.org and request a free copy of The Book of Mormon.