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Rebirth of the East Peak Challenge lets athletes test team-building skills on zip lines, ropes courses

 

ROCKWELL — One by one, all 19 South Rowan High School football players and a few coaches climbed a rope canopy, walked across platforms strapped to safety harness ropes and zip-lined from 43 feet in the air.

It was a team-building exercise for the players Thursday and the first time the ropes course at Saleeby-Fisher YMCA has been open to the public after a two-year hiatus.

The Paul Fisher East Peak Challenge ropes course is behind the East branch and was created in 2006 for team-building activities.

Participants transfer from one platform to another to complete the course.

The three main elements of the course include a set of wire cables with ropes that participants can hang on to, a crossing with wooden squares secured with cable spaced a few feet apart and another series of wire cables with PVC pipes. The last platform allows participant to zip-line to the ground.

The course was the brainchild of Jim Duncan, former Y board president, and former F&M Bank Chairman Paul Fisher. Five local businesses — F&M Bank, Novant Health Rowan Medical Center, Cheerwine, Cozart Lumber and McKenzie Sports Products — provided the $125,000 to open the course in 2006 and provided $10,000 this year to update it.

Duncan said that in 2015, the course had not been used for a while. He asked if he could research what it would cost to recertify instructors and update the course.

Many of the YMCA staff are certified instructors, as are a few East Rowan teachers and two Rowan County sheriff’s detectives, Chad Moose and Ollie Green.

Sgt. Maj. Chris Boardman, an ROTC instructor at East Rowan High, told the players how the ropes course works. Boardman said the students must have confidence in the instructors, confidence in the equipment and confidence in the procedures.

“Learn to control your fear,” he said.

Fear was what made player Andrew Byrd initially skeptical of the course. He stalled on the rope canopy and platforms, but proceeded after a pep talk from instructors and teammates.

“C’mon, Byrd, you can do it,” the players shouted.

“You got this,” the players yelled.

It took him a bit longer than he’d likely planned, but in the end, Byrd zip-lined to the ground.

When asked what motivated him to push through his fear of heights, Byrd said thinking about his team.

What did it feel like finishing? “It feels good,” he said.

Cameron Hurd said he’d gone zip-lining before while in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

“It shows you how you can push through challenges,” Hurd said.

He said it is a good way to know who has your back on the field and a way to show courage and strength.

Brett Amburn, who was appreciative of the chance to bond with teammates, said most teams would not get that same opportunity.

“We can overcome our fears together,” Amburn said.

Emilio Bernal has participated in the course before and others at the U.S. National Whitewater Center and in Myrtle Beach.

“I’m really glad our coaches gave us this opportunity,” he said.

The course is open to corporations, school groups, churches and other groups.

Anyone interested in tackling the ropes challenge should contact the East Rowan branch of the YMCA at 704-279-1742 or email Joe Finney at jfinney@rowanymca.org for details.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.

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