Stefan Hard / Staff Photo A fast-moving competitor does a slide under camouflage netting Sunday on Paine Mountain during the Brian Bill Memorial Challenge at Norwich University in Northfield. For more photos and a report, see page B1.
About 150 people willingly subjected themselves to an ordeal Sunday at Norwich University in Northfield to pay tribute to Norwich graduate Brian Bill, a Navy SEAL who was killed in Afghanistan, and to raise money for a Norwich scholarship in his name.
The challenge was tough, and so was the weather. But the cause was important.
When the roughly 6.5-mile military-style obstacle course race started just after 9 a.m., the temperature was 11 degrees, with strong winds making it feel much colder.
No matter — contestants ran up old ski slopes on Paine Mountain across from the college campus, clambered over logs, crawled on their bellies in the snow, fired paintball guns at targets, did pull-ups, lifted full ammo boxes over their heads, and encountered various other devices and obstacles on a journey designed to push the body to near exhaustion.
Water was provided at a couple of stations along the course, but this wasn't the type of race with volunteers offering hot chocolate, energy drinks and doughnuts.
Gavin Boyles, of Montpelier, finished the course in just over 2½ hours and said it was harder than the Spartan Race he ran in Pittsfield in the fall.
“The obstacles were harder,” said Boyles, “and the cold ...” Boyles finished in the top tier and said he thoroughly enjoyed himself despite the frigid temperatures.
Jason Como, from Chicopee, Mass., powered through pain from two recent injuries, drawing on his Special Forces training and experience to complete the course in under 2½ hours and capturing all the action on a chest-mounted video recorder. Como said he wanted to honor Bill by competing in the race and said he is a member of the New England Spahtens, an organized obstacle course racing team, so doing this race seemed a no-brainer.
Several other members of the Spahtens competed, including Corrine Giordani, of Bridgewater, Mass., who was one of the top female finishers. She said the toughest part of the course was the steep climbs of Paine Mountain, a former college ski area.
Villanova University freshmen Sean Mulligan and Tom Brawley ran the course together and finished close to Como.
“I thought it sounded like fun, so we came up,” said Mulligan.
“It was a good cause, so why not?” added Brawley.
At the halfway mark, many weary competitors were reduced to walking, but most kept going to complete the course. At the finish line each participant rang a brass bell and received a commemorative medal with the Navy SEALs symbol. Many members of naval services at Norwich helped set up and staff the race.
At least one member of Bill's family, sister Amy Kutney, of Cranford, N.J., competed in the race, accompanied by her husband, Chad Kutney. Bill's parents spoke at a ceremony after the race, and a post-race party was hosted by the race sponsor, the Knotty Shamrock in Northfield.
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