It all started with a quote.
You can’t make a racehorse out of a donkey. But you can make a fast donkey.Coach Jim Perkins
Inspired by this quote, rising high school junior Jake Smith started a tradition known as Donkey Camp – a few days of camping at Unicoi State Park with lots of miles to contribute to summer training for cross country season.
Coming into the WCHS cross country team as a freshman in the fall of 2004, I was quickly introduced not only to the quote but also to the boys’ team who adopted it as their own.
Not to be outdone, my teammate Bea (a junior) and I wanted to do something similar for the girls’ team the next summer, so we got to planning. And what better name for our rival camp than Racehorse Camp?
Planning a camp as a 15-year old (17 for Bea) did come with some difficulties, though. Neither of us had credit cards, so Bea had to drive to Unicoi and write them a check for the campsite deposit, and I took on the task of calling all of the rising ninth graders who expressed interested at the cross country meeting at the end of the school year. I had more than one interesting conversation with a parent who wanted to know if any adults would be there…to which the answer was…no.
But we made it happen! July 25-27, 2005 was 3 days of camping, running at Unicoi, jumping off the bridge at Bottoms Rd (back when it was well-kept secret), and a drive up to Sliding Rock at Wildcat Creek. Our last day of camp concluded with an out and back run in Panorama, Bea’s subdivision that was insanely hilly, and then kayaking down the Chattahoochee from her backyard. We only had 4 attendees (including me and Bea), but all things considered, it was a success!
Racehorse camp took a hiatus in summer 2006 since we had a team cross country camp organized by our coaches but came back in summer 2007 for June 25-27. Now that I was 17 and could drive, it was much easier. Bea was off in college, but my teammate Brooke ran the camp with me. And we had 6 attendees!
We ran at Unicoi, played in the water at Sliding Rock, and concluded our camp with a long run at the Chattahoochee on Poplar Stump Road.
We also just so happened to have our camp at the same time as Donkey Camp this summer, so one of our activities was a game of Ultimate frisbee in the lake against the boys’ team. We got shirts that said “Water Ultimate Frisbee Champions” on them if that gives you a clue which team won.
And there were absolutely no shenanigans or pranks that we played on their campsite.
Sadly I don’t think Donkey Camp or Racehorse Camp are traditions that lived on for WCXC, but I’m proud of my part in bringing the girls’ team into the fold…kind of like how I designed the She Piece for Wacky Day…but that’s another story.