Nashoba Takes on Wolverine Challenge

A Nashoba-based team took first place at the Wolverine Challenge in June, thanks to capturing five of the top eight places in the mud-filled obstacle-style course.
Courtesy Linda Gothies

By Ellen Oliver

A Nashoba-based team was the hands-down winner of the High School Wolverine Challenge held June 16-17 in Spencer, MA. The team included students, faculty, parents and friends from the Nashoba Community competing in the five-mile, muddy obstacle course on Sunday.

Nashoba’s win was secured by the first place finish in the men’s division by 2013 graduate Ben Mandelbaum and third place by teacher Matt Ettinger. There was also a first place award in the women’s division by junior Emily Sargent, followed by second and third finishes by two Nashoba moms, Maggie Bonazzoli and Robin Schartner. The team award was calculated by the finishes of the top four runners from each team. Since Nashoba took five of the top eight places, hoisting the cup was assured.

The course wound through David Prouty High School steering participants over obstacles such as constructed wooden walls, monkey bars, mud crawls and even a slip-n-slide with a muddy pool at the bottom.

Although different teams had been running heats for two days, Mandelbaum said when he crossed the finish line, he heard an official comment that he had beat the course record by six minutes, crossing at 20.46 minutes. Then Mandelbaum was surrounded by his brother and other Nashoba kids and teachers, telling him he had won. “It felt really exhilarating,” he explained. “As a long distance runner I’d been good enough to make varsity for most of high school, but never really good enough to just flat out win a big race… it felt awesome to win something.”

Ben Mandelbaum on the Wolverine Challenge course.
Courtesy Josh Mandelbaum

Also on the Nashoba team was Stow resident and Nashoba school system teacher (and Nashoba graduate) Linda Gothie who competed with her son, Greg, a junior at Nashoba. “I had always wanted to try one of these races with military obstacles. I got my mind set and wanted to do it to say I did it,” she said.

Gothie hurt her leg partway through the race, but she was determined to finish and began walking the course. As she approached the last portion of the site where participants run up and down the bleachers, she saw Greg standing there. “He had shoulder surgery last year, I thought he was hurt,” she said. When she asked Greg if he was okay, Greg told his mother he had already finished the race and came back to find her. “He finished the race, but climbed all the walls and did the last third again with me,” she said.

Greg had been acting as a coach for his mom, so although he finished alongside of family friend Joe Pitterino, he was curious about his trainee. “When I finished, I went back to finish what I started with my mom,” he said. “All winter I was helping her at the gym. Once she found out about the event I had her work out harder.”

Every year, the Nashoba girls’ soccer team runs the Alison Murphy Road Race in Bolton as a team. When several members of the team signed up for the Wolverine Challenge, they decided to continue the tradition and stay together on the course. “I thought it would be something for the whole team to do together over the summer,” said Cori Gillen, a captain of the incoming girls’ soccer team. “We did it as a team because we thought it would be more fun.”

By the time everyone crossed the finish line there were a lot of green Nashoba t-shirts covered in mud. “My favorite obstacle was the mud crawls,” said Mandelbaum. “I love being dirty. It was so fun to just dive in and low crawl through this really loose mud that covered everything.” Added Gillen, “It didn’t seem like five miles at all. We definitely got muddy.”

The challenge is set up to be a fundraiser for the school, with participants encouraged to find backers. “We’re hoping more people do it next year,” said Linda. “I think people were nervous thinking it was like one of those Tough Mudder or other obstacle courses. There was no fire, no electric shocks.”

Winning the Challenge the first year was a great victory and Mandelbaum, Gillen, and both Gothies said they would do it or another mud race again. “Everywhere we looked we saw someone having fun,” said Linda. “Next year we’d like to get a group of the football players, both soccer teams-  it’s a good team bonding experience. If I can finish it, anyone can.”

Nick Piccioli, Matt Ettinger, Steve Kendall and Ben Mandelbaum after the Wolverine Challenge.
Courtesy Josh Mandelbaum