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Students rise to outdoor challenge

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November 5, 2014

By Tommy Benson '17

AnnMarie Backstrom '18 was one of the most active students during week three of the Outdoor Nation Challenge.

Don't underestimate College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University students. What seemed like an impossible challenge for Bennies and Johnnies is now turning into a blowout in their favor. 

CSB and SJU currently lead in the Outdoor Nation's On Campus Challenge, a competition to determine which college in the country is the most outdoor oriented. Participants log their hours by documenting the time they spend outside with a picture and a description and post it on the Outdoor Nation website.

Saying that CSB/SJU is outmanned would be an understatement. Some schools such as the University of Central Florida have about 15 Knights for every one Bennie and Johnnie; the University of Wisconsin-Madison has 11 Badgers for every one Bennie and Johnnie; and the University of California-Long Beach outnumbers CSB/SJU students by more than nine to one.

Don't tell Bennies and Johnnies that, as they have more than three times as many hours logged as the second-place school.

Jenny Kutter, coordinator of Saint John's Outdoor University, says the success is "both a result of marketing the competition and a really strong core of outdoor students." Kutter is also coordinator and assistant to the chair of environment studies.

"The culture here has a strong recreational aspect where the land is included in the college experience.  Combine that with the intangible sense of community, and this is what you get," Kutter said.

She believes the sense of community fueled CSB/SJU students to rally around one another because they "feel like they're a part of a team."

Jillian Birkholz, a senior English and communication double-major from Buffalo, Minnesota, who is in charge of marketing the competition, echoed this sentiment.

"The fact that we're ahead is a testament to the involvement and community feel," she said.

She added that this competition is about pride for Bennies and Johnnies.

"It reveals our competitive nature toward a goal.  It's a way for us to say we're a force to be reckoned with," she said.

This eight-week competition runs until Nov. 22, at which point the school with the most logged hours will be crowned the national champion.