COLUMBIA — Dozens of children waited at the starting line. Some bounced on the balls of their feet, while others stood still with serious looks on their faces. Parents waited on the sidelines, cameras at the ready.
"Who's ready?" the announcer called out to the crowd.
"I am," responded the children.
"Who's ready?" he said again.
"I am!" the children shouted.
All the children took a knee as the announcer led them in an oath of sportsmanship. This was not a race, and the children weren't there to win, he said. They were there to get muddy.
At the announcer's signal, the 12-15 age group race of the SPLAT! Junior Obstacle Course Mud Run began the muddy march to the finish line.
The event, organized by Columbia Parks and Recreation, spanned 1.75 miles and featured 16 different obstacles, such as a climbing over hay bales and leaping over a log. The course came to an end at a mud pit known as "The BIG SPLAT!"
Almost 350 kids came to the Gans Creek Recreation Area Saturday to participate, according to a news release from Columbia Parks and Recreation. They were organized into waves by age group. The youngest group, for children ages 4 to 7, went through .75 miles of the course and had 11 obstacles.
"You can get muddy without your parents yelling at you," Christopher Grossmann, 10, said. Christopher and his cousin Claire Babcock, 9, took part in the second wave. Christopher and Claire were covered from their shoulders down with mud by the end of the course.
Some participated in the event for the chance to get muddy, while others valued being able to have fun with others.
"You get to spend time with your family," Christopher said.
"And it's healthy for you," Claire added. The children said they want to continue participating if the event is held next year.
Brayden Whitacre, 10, said he couldn't wait to do it again.
"It's to have a good time, quit watching television, quit using technology and to test your limits," Whitacre said. He said getting muddy was a fun bonus.
This was the first time Parks and Recreation has held the event, and it was so popular during registration that organizers had to schedule an additional wave Saturday morning to accommodate those who were unable to get spots in the originally scheduled waves.
Supervising editor is Samuel Hardiman.