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The joy of Babsons Army

HOOD TO COAST - Barlow began running the relay in 1995
by: David Ball Members of Babson’s Army gather around long-time Bruins’ cross country coach Jim Babson, front middle, after a practice run earlier this week. The school has been taking part in the Hood-to-Coast event since 1995.

It takes a special kind of runner to follow a week of two-a-day workouts with one of the most demanding road races on the summer calendar. It takes a member of Babson's Army.

A group of a dozen Barlow High cross country runners have joined forces to race the 132-mile Portland-to-Coast high school challenge this weekend, as part of the Hood-to-Coast Relay festivities. It's a tradition that dates back to 1995 when a pair of students Cory Nystul and Dave Kilian (now the Bruins track coach) gathered the first high-school only team to run the Hood-to-Coast.

'We got it in our heads to try it and it's kept going ever since,' Kilian said.

Babson's Army is named after long-time coach Jim Babson, who has spent more than 30 years sending runners out on the campus trails. The team's logo is a skull and crossbones with Babson's well-known mustache under the nose.

'Coach Babson is legendary around here, so it's named after him,' team captaon Jackson Haselnus said.

All but two of this year's runners are returning from doing the longer Hood-to-Coast event last year - a two-day trek that resulted in one valuable lesson learned.

'We heard that chocolate milk was a good energy drink, but you're supposed to do that after your race is over,' Jacob Campbell said. 'We were chugging it between each of our runs, and it just sits in your stomach. Our bellies were all aching by the time we reached our last leg.'

So with plenty of water on board, this year's team will head to downtown Portland on Friday and begin their run for the beach. The relay has become a fun way to kick off the season and also a motivator to stay in shape during the summer.

'You end up going out on a run or going to camp and the relay is always in the back of your mind - it keeps you going,' Kamrin Sorensen said.

The finish line in Seaside has its own tradition, as well, as the team makes a mad dash to the water, splashing wildly to announce their arrival.

Other members of this year's team are Rachel Collmer, Mandie Maddux, Katie Nock, Austin Kettelsen, Zach Standish, Kate Johnson, Alex Seymour and Tyler McAfee.

Meanwhile, Babson's only requirement is that he drive to his beach house in Cannon Beach and have the lasagna ready for his weary army when they arrive Saturday night.