Record-breaking summer for Bulldog Days
George and Cheryl McCrary provided t-shirts and free watermelon to a handful of Bulldog Days participants at Friday evening's finale.
Those who earned the t-shirt were given their award, while everyone shared the juicy fruit at Liston Stadium. Friday ended the fourth campaign of Baldwin City's summer conditioning program.
"This was our largest number ever by far," G. McCrary said. "I'm so happy with the numbers we had, because we only advertise by word of mouth."
More than 300 different participants attended at least one workout session during its three-month run from May 15 to Aug. 15. Almost 60 of those attendees earned themselves a free t-shirt, which required they attend at least 20 sessions.
"I was thinking if we bump it up to 20, we won't have as many t-shirts to give out," G. McCrary said. "It's really amazing what people will do for a free t-shirt."
One of the most frequent attendees was the McCrarys' teenage daughter, Kaylin. While juggling work and other events, she attended Bulldog Days 49 times. She even missed two weeks for a mission trip to South Africa.
"I enjoyed seeing other people reach personal goals with me and at the same time meet a lot of new people I wouldn't have met if I hadn't attended," she said. "I really enjoy the dog days crowd."
Another participant who earned his second straight t-shirt was Baldwin City's Darrin Owings. He was happy to earn his shirt, but said the group camaraderie kept bringing him back all summer.
"The t-shirt is cool, but I wanted to go as much as possible," Owings said. "I had little kids baseball to go to also, which made it tough at times. If I ever missed a morning, I would feel bad so I would try and go that night.
"I don't know if it was the competitiveness or what, but I would come back and run with the same people every time," he said. "It's nice to see those same people over and over each time I was there."
G. McCrary also said the same people would return with the same group each morning or night. He credits that friendship and bonding to the success of the free conditioning program that models itself after Lawrence's Red Dog Days.
"That camaraderie is a big factor," G. McCrary said. "That's why we have people saying we need to continue it into the fall. People may only come once or twice a week, but they get a taste of that camaraderie and that's what brings them back. That's one big reason we keep bringing people back for four years now. That is the stronghold of the program."
The highest number of participants came during the evening sessions, especially during the early and middle part of the three months. However, he said the mornings also became popular with a group of people.
"We had great numbers in the mornings, too," McCrary said. "Those were the people who were consistent. You saw the same core group of people come every morning."
The workouts were different every session. They ranged from doing plyometrics across the artificial turf, running laps around the track, running stairs on both sets of bleachers and doing a mixture of all of them.
This year the McCrarys tried to add a few new workout ideas into the program. They would even discuss what to do while at restaurants.
"That was part of the fun conversations at my house," G. McCrary said. "We would put our different ideas together. Most people liked my wife's workouts better than mine this summer. She had just as challenging of workouts, so I think it must have been in her approach."
It was his family that also helped run many of the workouts. His wife and daughter attended numerous sessions and led if G. McCrary couldn't attend. His daughter said attending was something she personally wanted to do.
"I got really into working out in March and the spring," K. McCrary said. "I wanted to improve my tennis game this fall. I also got really into helping out my mom and dad because we're all very busy and it was an easy way to help out at home."
As far as leading the large group of participants, that was a bit nerve-racking at first for her.
"The attendance didn't affect me until I led for the first time without my mom or dad," she said. "It was very overwhelming standing in front of 100 people being in charge of the workout that night. We didn't have 100 on a regular basis but I think over the summer we had over 300 names on our board that came at least one time. The attendance this year blew me away and I can't wait to see the crowd next year."
Next summer is already being planned and there will be some changes. The most notable at the moment is adding morning workouts on Tuesday and Thursday.
"We've already got changes planned," G. McCrary said. "The biggest change for next year is that we are going to offer it five times a week in the morning and night. I've already got commitments to help with that."
Before this year was over, he did want to thank his family and Baker University for making this whole program possible.
"I would like to thank my family," G. McCrary said. "I couldn't do it without them. Then once again, Baker is the unsung hero. Everybody needs to take advantage of the facility Baker has put in our community. My hat's off to them. They didn't charge us and their staff was out there helping us. That's what makes it a win-win situation all the way around."