Challenge to offer friendly competition

Cindy Wenzel, a master instructor of Tae Kwon Do at Gold Mountain Martial Arts, sees it often in her youth martial arts classes – children idolize the heroes that they see around them. Sometimes it’s the superheroes they see on television. Sometimes it’s the real-life heroes they see around them.

Most of Wenzel’s young students express interest in one day becoming firefighters or police officers, she said. So Wenzel decided to take that interest and turn it into a chance for a learning tool and an opportunity for face-to-face interaction with local emergency services personnel.

That’s the idea behind Saturday’s first annual Heroes’ Challenge, a joint effort between Gold Mountain Martial Arts and Fitness Evolution in Front Royal that will pit Warren County emergency services personnel against each other in a friendly competition.

“Our kids are all about Spider-Man and Superman and their TV superheroes, but the real ones that they know and that they admire are the first responders,” said Wenzel, who is also a fitness consultant and personal trainer at Fitness Evolution’s Front Royal location, where the event will be held. “The idea (for the Heroes’ Challenge) is to introduce them to positive influences early in life.”

A free event, the Heroes’ Challenge will begin around noon and will include three teams representing different emergency service departments – Team Blue will be made up of members of the Front Royal Police Department, Team Brown is the Warren County Sheriff’s Department and Team Red will be represented by members of Warren County’s fire and rescue services, Wenzel said. She added that she’s reached out to other local agencies as well.

The competition will be built around six athletic events, including tire flipping, pull-ups, sit-ups, plyometrics box jumps and bench press, each of which will require participants to do as many repetitions as they can in three minutes. There will also be a tug of war competition consisting of five-person teams. Wenzel said employees of Fitness Evolution will serve as officials and judges.

Medals will be awarded to the best individual scorers, while the overall team champion will receive a “great big trophy,” Wenzel said.

The concept of the Heroes’ Challenge evolved from a chili cook-off that Gold Mountain Martial Arts did in the past to celebrate local heroes, Wenzel said, and she likened it to a softball competition that used to exist in Front Royal between firefighters and police officers.

“Once again (we’re) giving them a chance to do some athletic events all in fun for a good cause, influencing our youth,” Wenzel said.

The children from Wenzel’s Tae Kwon Do classes will be in attendance along with their families and will provide food for the competitors. They will also have the chance to learn about careers in emergency services and demonstrate some of their martial arts techniques.

“They’re gonna have the opportunity to ask some questions,” Wenzel said. “They’re gonna perform a demo, they’ll be doing like some board breaking (and have) an opportunity to socialize with their families, the officers’ families. Hopefully it’s just gonna be a real laid back, fun afternoon.”

Wenzel said she’s hoping the Heroes’ Challenge will be an annual event, and it could turn into a fundraising opportunity, although no money will be involved in Saturday’s inaugural event.

“There’s no money going in or out as far as a cause. Possibly that would be something great (in the future),” Wenzel said. “We’re always asking the police department what can we do to support them in their efforts. This is an opportunity for the adults as well to learn what they can do, as private citizens how to support their local PD. That’s what it’s all about is to pretty much inform and inspire. Absolutely inspire is probably the key word there.”

Fitness Evolution is located at 485 South Street in Front Royal.

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com