NEW PALESTINE — With beads of sweat rolling down her face, Mia Knoop brushed away the perspiration and gulped down a swig of cold bottled water.
Knoop, a seventh-grader at Doe Creek Middle School, took a quick break from one of the many agility drills she had been working on at Speed Camp.
She slowed down for a few seconds to catch her breath and re-hydrate after pushing herself to learn new running skills designed to make her a better, faster athlete.
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“They’re helping me with stuff you don’t realize you need help with,” she said.
More than 45 area youngsters took part in the two-week, four-session Speed Camp designed to show area athletes how the slightest change in the way they approach their foot, hand and arm work, can make them faster.
Jeremy Large, an assistant football coach at New Palestine, holds the camp to help prepare both male and female athletes in all sports to become smarter competitors by making minor adjustments in the way they run.
All the participants in the camp are involved in a sport where they hit, field and run and have learned the fundamentals in things like blocking and tackling; but very rarely will a coach have the time to teach the basics of how to run, like camp instructors can do at the gathering.
“There are some very specific things kids can do to make themselves faster,” Large said.
Large and his wife, Heather Dellinger-Large, organize the camp each summer, which has grown in numbers over the past nine years.
From the day the camp starts, after the four intense sessions, Dellinger-Large said there is no doubt the athletes learn ways to increase their speed times.
All three of the Large’s sons, who currently play or have played for the Dragons, have taken part in the camp. Gunnar Large, a recent New Palestine High School graduate and former varsity quarterback, helped coach the athletes.
He was working with the youngsters at the resistance rope area to help them build muscle in the legs, something needed to make an athlete faster.
Max Hooker, an eighth-grader at Doe Creek Middle School, took part in the camp last year and said the skills he learned helped him gain enough speed to go out for track and field.
“I wasn’t that fast a few years ago, but last year, this really helped me with my times,” Hooker said.
Many current and former Dragon athletes who’ve won state championships in their sport helped teach the youngsters how to improve their running form, lessons they learned at the camp when they, too, took part at a younger age.
The campers spent time at several different stations set up on the Doe Creek Middle School track and learned things about triple-extension explosiveness and change of direction skills, among how to hold their arms and hands to trim time.
Chase Hill, a former New Palestine High School football player, videotaped the young athletes with an iPad after he and track and field coaches showed them how to properly take off when running a race.
He captured the kids running towards him, and as well as from the side view, so they could see what they were doing right and wrong and then work on their form and make adjustments.
“It’s the things you can’t see when they’re running full speed where we can slow it down and go in and show it to them,” Hill said.