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Dietz Challenge pushes players to absolute max

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By Michael Hicks

Dan Dietz looked at the field on June 28 at Littleton Public Schools Stadium and knew the effort that was being put forth, by both the Chatfield Senior High and Heritage High football players, was worthy of honoring the sacrifice his son Danny Dietz made. The younger Dietz, a U.S. Navy SEAL, made the ultimate sacrifice on June 28, 2005.
But when the elder Dietz looked a little closer, it really wasn’t a sacrifice, he said. It was more the love and compassion he and the Danny Dietz Leadership and Training Foundation have for these teenagers. It was the desire to see them succeed.
“What I’m doing is trying to give these young kids that character that Danny displayed. I’m proud of his courage and strength,” Dietz said. “Once he got something in his mind, you were not going to get it out. It took me awhile to get him to that point where he would focus.”
But he eventually did. Once Danny Dietz realized at age 11 or 12 that being a ninja wasn’t feasible, he turned his focus to being a Navy SEAL, his father said.
Dietz, who graduated from Heritage High School and was in a weight-training class under Heritage coach Mike Griebel, played only one year of football. But football wasn’t his calling — being a NAVY Seal was. He found that calling early in life, Griebel said.
“His goal in life was to be a SEAL. He just wanted to get his high school diploma. He didn’t care about his GPA or his test scores. He had to get his high school diploma to be a candidate,” Griebel said.
In its fifth year, the Danny Dietz 6-28-05 Memorial Fitness Challenge pitted the two teams of 30 in six exercises of 28 reps and five sets each on June 28 at Littleton Public Schools Stadium. The exercises consisted of push-ups, sit-ups, weighted lunges, burpees, flutter kicks and plate presses. But this was more than just a physical challenge; this was a mental one.
“It’s pretty bad. It was tough,” Chatfield senior Brendan Murphy said. “After the first (exercise), you can kind of see how it’s going to get hard. But then throughout it gets a lot harder, worse than you ever expect. But it’s definitely worth it.”
There were counters at each station to ensure the integrity of the challenge. The first individual to complete the grueling task was Chatfield senior cornerback Reece Rumsey, but he acknowledges he couldn’t have done it on his own.
“There’s a lot of things, to be honest, that was going through my mind,” Rumsey said.
“One of the things was Danny. There’s no comparison with what (the Navy SEALS) went through. That’s on a bigger scale. They went through a lot harder training than we did. Then, spiritually, I was definitely talking to the man up top.”
Volunteers, such as 12-year-old Julian Papia of Thornton, were on hand to lend moral support.
“I am trying to push them as far as they could go. When they’re resting, I try to push them even after they’ve reached their breaking point, trying to encourage them to go farther. That’s not just here, but even when they’re playing in actual football games,” Papia said.
Chatfield won the team competition, having the most finishers when the event was called at 7:05 p.m. due to threatening weather. But, truthfully, all of the athletes were winners on this day, Griebel said, thanks to Danny Dietz.
“This is much bigger than football or anything else. Our kids are honored to be here and do this. This is not a punishment. They’re honored to come do this little bit here,” Griebel said. “This helps to promote what Danny did for us. We can stand here and not be in fear of being shot or blown up right now. We’re in a great country because of guys like Danny. We need to appreciate that.”

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Contact Michael Hicks at sports@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 15.