By Craig Harper
For the Courier
U.S. Navy SEALs are renowned for their physical training regimen. It’s a big part of achieving their ethos, which includes “expect discipline, demand innovation,” “expect to lead and be led” and “forged by adversity.”
Building character in at-risk youths is a fundamental principle of the Danny Dietz Leadership and Training Foundation. Included in that regimen is physical conditioning, though not on the same level as that of SEALs, of which Dietz, a Heritage High School graduate, was a member when he sacrificed his life on June 28, 2005 during Operation Red Wings in Afghanistan.
Some football players at Littleton high schools are learning first-hand about the rigors of SEALs training. Dan Dietz, Danny’s father and president of the foundation in his son’s name, believes character is developed through repetition. If so, Chatfield is ahead of the game. The Chargers’ 15-man team beat Heritage for the inaugural high school team title in last year’s Danny Dietz 6-28-05 Memorial Fitness Challenge and repeated on June 28 against an expanded field that included Columbine and Littleton at Littleton Public Schools Stadium.
For the past seven years, the foundation has conducted the event, a rapid-fire series of six SEAL training exercises, doing five sets of 28 repetitions (6-28-05).
Chatfield had a built-in advantage, while first-timer Columbine was caught a bit off guard.
“We kind of do a little Danny Dietz at the end of our workouts, a 10-minute modified program,” said Chargers coach Bret McGatlin, whose team is known for its nano-speed hurry-up offense. “It’s a good workout for our style of offense. We play fast and we want our kids to be leaner. These are high-repetition workouts without a lot of rest, and for football you don’t do that a lot.”
Columbine finished second, but coach Andy Lowry admitted the Rebels “hadn’t done much of it; we were pretty much rookies. We didn’t go in completely cold, but we didn’t read all the rules. It was an eye-opener for all of us. It’s a great thing and a privilege to be part of it.”
McGatlin said Chatfield has “developed a relationship with Dan and he’s spoken to our team. This is a great way to honor Danny and the (three other) young men who died that day.”
Lowry, who said he didn’t know enough about the event to enter a team last year, hopes this is the beginning of a great relationship with the Dietz family. It helped that Mikey Griebel is transferring to Columbine from Heritage. Griebel, the Eagles’ starting quarterback last year as a freshman, is the son of Mike Griebel, who retired after a long tenure as Heritage’s coach.
Mike Griebel coached Danny Dietz for one year and has a bonding with the Dietz family. Dan Dietz provided inspiration that helped the Eagles win the 4A title in 2009. “I worked with those boys for two years. The coaches and I would go to the Platte River Bar and Grill and have a couple beers, and they would ask me questions about the brotherhood, the bonding of the young men in the service. You become brothers. And I finally got it across to these young kids and the coaches this message that I was trying to give, and they took state in football for the first time in 38 years. I’ve got the ring, and I wear that for the boys and Danny.”
In the early years, the Challenge was mostly an event for students at Heritage. 2013 marked the addition of high school football teams and this year’s Challenge at Littleton Public Schools Stadium featured the first open division, with about 50 participants.
“We really want to grow the open competition,” said Tiffany Bitz, Danny’s sister and the foundation’s vice president. “We had a huge turnout this year, but we really want to keep growing. That’s the part that helps raise funds for our non-profit (there is no registration fee for the football teams; $25 for the open division).”