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Striving for excellence: Raider athletes spending the summer working to improve

Kellen Pearson stretches at the beginning of Tuesday morning's strength and conditioning session of Hudson's Raider Elite Program in the middle school gym. Nearly 200 high school student-athletes are taking part in the 11-week program. Photo by Bob Burrows

While many kids look to summer for a break from school-related activities, nearly 200 Hudson High School student-athletes are spending 11 weeks of their summer looking to get better in their respective sports.

The students, both male and female and representing all sports in all grades, are showing up five days a week at the middle school and high school for sessions that combine weight training and strength and conditioning drills in an effort to compete at a higher level.

While it's not uncommon for individual sports to hold summer workouts, Hudson athletic director Stephanie DeVos said this is the first time all the district's sports programs have come together under one umbrella.

"It's a kickoff for a program that will be implemented throughout the year," she said. "The Raider Elite Program specializes in training methods that have been researched and are utilized in top colleges."

The program runs for 11 weeks and includes a total of 55 sessions. Student-athletes meet at the high school for weight training on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, under the direction of Neil Hatfield and Nate Brine. Each Tuesday and Thursday, they meet at the middle school for strength and conditioning training conducted by Gerry Uchytil.

Because of the large number of student-athletes involved and the limited space to operate, the program is divided into two sessions each day, one beginning at 7 a.m. and another at 8 a.m. DeVos said 80 to 90 students attend each session.

"It's a good problem to have," DeVos said about the large number of students participating. "We wouldn't know we would have this problem until we tried it. Instead of sitting and waiting, we took the initiative to go for it and it's been very successful."

Even middle school students are getting involved, according to the athletic director. She said about 75 middle school students have volunteered to attend the sessions.

"We never dreamed the middle school part would take off this big," DeVos said.

DeVos said one of the goals of the program is to try and push the athletes into the elite 1 percent of their competitive drive. And in less than two months the student-athletes will start reaping the rewards. Fall practice for many high school teams begins the week of Aug. 10.

Bob Burrows
Bob Burrows has been sports editor at the River Falls Journal since 1996 and at the Hudson Star-Observer since 2009. Prior to joining the Journal, Burrows served as sports editor with Ledger Publications in Balsam Lake, Wis. A native of Bayonne, N.J. and a U.S. Navy veteran, Burrows attended Marquette University before completing his studies at UW-River Falls in 1992.
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