COOK — In an epic conflict Saturday at the former Cook school, pitting “ninjas” against “screaming weasels” and “loons,” a group of female …
COOK — In an epic conflict Saturday at the former Cook school, pitting “ninjas” against “screaming weasels” and “loons,” a group of female “dragons” from Cherry had the right combination of skills and teamwork to emerge victorious.
The event was the annual Scouts BSA Klondike Derby, a test of outdoor skills and teamwork hosted by Cook Scout Troop 128. As 2019 champion, Cook served as host of the event and did not compete against whimsically named Scout patrols from Cherry, Eveleth, Hibbing, and Virginia.
“Because we’re hosting, our kids are all working in the stations,” Cook Scoutmaster Rock Gillson said. “Austin (Durbin) is inside with Mario Kart, Kory (Zallar) is out with fire building, and Steven (Sopoci) is out with first aid.”
And on the first anniversary of girls being accepted into Scouting, four girls from Cherry nicknamed the “Dragons” won the competition against 39 other Scouts.
“I didn’t think we’d win in a million years,” 11-year-old Joley Grangruth said.
“I was waiting for any other team’s name and he said ours,” Mia Wesley, 12, said.
While Madeline Larson, 12, was equally surprised, the patrol’s senior member, Mellisa Larson, 17, had confidence her patrol would be competitive.
“I knew they knew their stuff,” she said. “I was surprised, but I believed in these girls. I knew we had a fighting chance.”
Gillson said the inclusion of girls in what was formerly Boy Scouts has helped some troops bolster membership while giving families opportunities to have their children together in a common activity.
“In some areas it’s been huge, in other areas it takes time,” Gillson said. “It takes time for people to make that adjustment mentally. We’re over 100 years old, and we’ve never had girls before.”
Gillson noted that the United States and Japan were the only two countries where girls hadn’t been included in Scouting.
“Every other country in the world has been co-ed since their existence,” he said.
Pushing Klondike sleds along snow-packed trails in the school yard, patrols spent Saturday morning encountering scenarios testing their skills in fire building, first aid, and shelter building. Josh Gillson, a Cook troop alumnus, Eagle Scout, and emergency responder, was responsible for the first-aid scenario, acting as both judge and teacher.
“You have young patrols, some doing this for the first time, and you have older kids who have been to a couple Klondikes. They’ve done these scenarios before, so they’re already ahead of the game,” Gillson said. “You let them play the scenario out, and the teaching comes in after. It’s that trial by fire – let’s see what you know, then once we’re done let’s re-evaluate.”
Competitive activities in the afternoon included dodge ball, Klondike sled racing, snow snake throwing, and snowshoe racing.
A unique feature of this year’s derby, traditionally a one-day event, was the addition of a Friday night sleepover and Fortnite online gaming competition. Accommodating a winter sleepover in a closed, cold school building wasn’t difficult for volunteers, but getting Internet access for the gaming terminals took some outside help.
“Access Broadband sent technicians out here and hooked it up temporarily for free,” Rock Gillson said.
The Cook troop’s idea to provide additional opportunity for Scouts to interact with other troops appeared to be well-received.
“I thought it was really interesting,” Mellisa Larson said. “It was like we had two events. I really like it when Scouts get to meet people from all over the place. All the kids got to talk with Scouts from all over and have that camaraderie.”