What have you accomplished in the past 12 minutes?

On Saturday, 16-year old John Dankert spent that amount of time rowing, lifting, lunging and squatting during one segment of CrossFit Lincoln's UltraFit Challenge at the Cornhusker State Games.

At the completion of that stage of the event, Dankert and his fellow competitors collapsed to the floor in exhaustion.

His mother, Brenda, who had been cheering her son on, said, “That hurt, didn’t it? That hurt way worse than you thought.”

She should know: 20 minutes earlier, Brenda had completed the same workout.

For the Dankerts, a family that works out together … experiences oxygen deficit and muscle fatigue together.

Parents often struggle to find things in common to talk about with their kids. Not Brenda and Dave Dankert. John, brother Luke (9), and sisters Hannah (7) and Sarah (12) also competed on Saturday. Brenda, a firefighter and paramedic in Grand Island, was introduced to the sport five years ago. Her children soon followed her into the gym.

“Plenty of sports are really hard, but you’ve got to trust that you can start them (kids) in CrossFit at any age,” Brenda Dankert said. “We always make sure there’s a game at the end so it’s fun. Children naturally like to be active, and it’s something we can do together.”

Conversation at the Dankert dinner table often turns to fitness and nutrition, and somebody was listening: While in kindergarten, Luke brought the school lunchroom to a standstill when he pointed to a plate and declared, “That’s a bad carb.”

“Yesterday, Sarah and I were talking about what workout we were going to do,” Brenda Dankert said. “If we both do 100 wall balls four times, she can talk to me about that and we can relate. If we wake up in the middle of the night with a charley horse because we were doing box jumps that day, we can giggle about it together because we have some common ground.”

Sarah Dankert said she enjoys the variety of workouts and the people who support her at the gym.

“I feel like a better me,” she said.

CrossFit is one of the fastest-growing sports in the country, with nearly 10,000 affiliated gyms. The Dankerts work out at CrossFit Heartland in Grand Island. This year’s Cornhusker State Games competition is being staged at CrossFit Lincoln, which was established in 2009.

There’s a lingo for the competitors, including the “WOD” (workout of the day) and “AMRAP” (as many reps as possible). Benchmark workouts are termed as the “Fran” (barbell thrusters and pullups in groups of 21, 15 and 9) or the “Murph” (a one-mile run, 100 pullups, 200 pushups, 300 squats and another mile run).

“'Murph' is mean,” Brenda Dankert said.

The athletes don’t find out the combination of their competition workouts until a few days or even hours before the event. To finish the competition Sunday is a fun little exercise known as “Death by Burpies.”

“People still call it crazy,” John Dankert said, “but it’s a lot of fun. It’s a new experience compared to any other sport. Everyone is so awesome and you can relate to them, have a good time.”

Brenda Dankert said she is excited to watch the CrossFit Games on ESPN next week. When the event first started in 2007, the winners received $500. In 2013, CrossFit Games winners took home a $250,000 prize.

The reward for winning CrossFit Lincoln’s UltraFit Challenge this weekend is a Cornhusker State Games medal. For the Dankerts, the reward is much more than that.

“We coach them through it,” Brenda Dankert said. “Sometimes the things that are hard or that we don’t like to do, like exercise, are the things we need to do the most. Everyone is awkward at first, but the best thing about CrossFit is everyone gets to win at something. You might be good at dead lifts, or you might be good at pullups. CrossFit is constantly varied and you have to be prepared for anything.”

Reach the sports editor at 402-473-7320 or ddickson@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSDarnellD.


Darnell graduated from BYU and covered Cougar football for the Daily Herald in Provo, Utah, before taking over as sports editor of the Journal Star in 2011.

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