Letters From Past Participants

Going to Hawaii was more then just a nice get a way for me, it was an experience of a life time. Seeing and experiencing all of the different cultures was amazing. Going to tour the volcanoes and seeing where actual movies had been filmed was also very exciting. This was not something I get to see everyday so I appreciated it even more. I loved going to the aquarium, I took a picture of every single fish that was there. My favorite was a fish that had a heart on it. I don't think that had ever seen a sea lion or a giant turtle before the trip either. Learning about them was a lot of fun. I also didn't know that pineapples grow on the ground. I discovered this at the Dole Plantation. They also plow, plant, and harvest all of the many acres of pineapple by hand. This was a real shock to me, I thought it would be done by machines. There was just so much to learn in such a small amount of time, but it was totally worth it.

Aleda Primmer (Hawaii 2010)

The Cross Country trip to Hawaii is not only an opportunity that most people never have, it is also a very special experience to share with a team. We did not just go to Hawaii as tourists; we went with purpose. I will never forget running to Diamond Head State Monument from our hotel and proceeding to climb to the top, and then running back at the end of the day. Brutal? Yes. It is also one of my most memorable moments because it was a challenge we accomplished together. Hawaii is not a “beach bum” trip like so many imagine. The race itself was the most exigent of the season- heat, hills, and extra distance made it a tough for all of us.

The Hawaii trip gives the cross-country team a unique edge that other sports unfortunately do not have. As a team we fundraised, we had an enriching experience, and we bonded on a deeper level. Of course it was exciting to see a sea turtle in person and meet mile record-holder Alan Webb. In the end, I chalk it up to one of the best experiences in my high school education. I know that I was one of the lucky few to have Coach Benzing and the Viroqua School Systems make it possible.

Hannah Keesler (Hawaii 2006)

I traveled with the team during my freshman year and loved every minute of it. From my first plane ride to having practice along the never-ending ocean, it all blew my mind. I met two runners from others schools that I got to know during a dinner at the school and the meet. It was fun to learn about their backgrounds, as they were from different states- Washington and Hawaii. The snorkeling adventure was amazing. We went to the bay’s center before we got into the water to learn about the different creatures that we might see out there. The trip to the Dole Plantation was definitely the most memorable for me. We learned about different commodities that are grown in Hawaii and the importance of those commodities to the state. This trip showed me the many differences that lie within our own country and the importance of being knowledgeable about the world as a whole, rather than only knowing about what happens outside your window. I highly recommend that this trip be continued in the future.

-Laura Hornby (Hawaii 2006)

Last year, I was one of seven seniors on Viroqua's cross-country team. Many of us had been "running with the program" since sixth grade, while others joined later in their educational and athletic careers. Either way, this season would be our last and it was our duty to ourselves, our team and our school to make it the best season we could. We were, for the first time, the leaders of a family we'd come to know and love. Wherever we went in our journeys, both in the physical sense and the mental sense, we, as a team, went there together.

Hawaii was one such journey. Not only did we travel across a sizable portion of the Pacific Ocean to explore the tropical island of Oahu, we formed better relationships with one another and reminded ourselves that this "team" was also our family. For the seniors in particular, this experience gave us an opportunity to practice our leadership skills and get to know our fellow teammates as friends rather than "underclassmen" (this is not to say we weren't friends with them before, but spending an entire week with the same people will foster stronger relationships). I also believe many individual team members became more connected with our chaperones, many of whom were parents of team members. This gave us all a chance to see them as relatable, approachable adults rather than just "parents."

In addition to learning more about each other, there came a sense of responsibility with this trip. Although it was only for one week and we were under adult supervision, this wasn't Viroqua. If we were going somewhere, we couldn't go alone; we were responsible for our person and our personal belongings; we were to respect all hospitalities and services provided to us; we were to stick with the team unless otherwise instructed. And, above all, we were to represent Viroqua High School as mature, young adults.

This trip also introduced everyone to the beauty, history and culture of Hawaii first-hand. For some, it marked the first time seeing the ocean and personally experiencing the bad taste of ocean spray. For others, perhaps actually seeing the sunken remains of the U.S.S. Arizona made war and global conflict more real to them. And for some, maybe standing on the windblown summit of Diamond Head while facing the boundless sea reminded them of how beautiful nature can be. This experience provided many ways for people to see beyond themselves.

Lastly, this trip to the "Aloha State" was wonderful, not only for the cross-country team and chaperones, but also for the man who's in charge of it all, my former coach, Scott Benzing. Every four years, he gets to show runners what it's like to race outside the Midwest. This introduction to running in a different place could make them more willing to continue running after high school because, number one, they understand what it's like to only have a few days to become acclimated to a new place before race day and, number two, that there are so many beautiful places to run in this huge world! I also believe that Mr. Benzing enjoys interacting and getting to know his runners outside of practice or class time. In addition, he knows that the bonds that are created/strengthened while on this trip will make a stronger, more unified team. If I were a coach, I would be thrilled to see my runners becoming better friends and teammates. It would also remind me that, whether we win or lose, we all understand what's most important.

I hope you continue to support the Viroqua High School Cross-Country Team's Hawaii trips. As you hopefully inferred from this letter, I believe this is a very valuable and worthwhile experience for all who participate. Thank you allowing this trip to be a highlight of my last cross-country season; I hope there are many others in the years to come who will be able to say the same.


Jennie Solverson (Hawaii 2010)

A few thoughts come to mind when i think about my high school experience and the impact the trip to Hawaii had on me (life changing). The trip in my eyes has been a life changing experience and a life long lesson to see just how cultures very from our small town of Viroqua to a much larger environment that Hawaii offers. The culture is very rich and expressive and if i learned one great thing from the trip is that there will always be a tomorrow so take the chance and opportunity to expand your horizons, learn the ways of the world, to never regret taking the chance to take the step to further your being and understanding of the people and environment that is around you. A few area's on the trip to Hawaii that really where an eye opener was the day i saw the pearl harbor monument. The experience to stand in a spot with great history and meaning for our country. This was a very humbling experience that i hope everyone has the opportunity to see with their own eyes.


Chase A Niemyjski (Hawaii 2002)

Going on the Hawaii trip for cross country was probably the highlight of my high school career so far. The trip definitely got me into cross country and being with all of my teammates and seeing everything together was awesome. Seeing all of the landmarks like the Dole Plantation and Pearl Harbor was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I had a great time, but I also learned so much. It was interesting to learn how the history of Hawaii is so different than the history of Wisconsin. When we visited Pearl Harbor, it was really cool to be able to see what we had heard about in school and read in books. The experience of going to Hawaii will always stay with me and is something that I will never forget. I think that this trip is something that every runner at Viroqua High School should experience!

Maddy Wiltrout (Hawaii 2010)

Dear School Board Members:

Thank you for alowing the Viroqua Cross Country Team to go to Hawaii in 2010. When I look back on all of the experiences in my high school career, I would not sell this one for the world! I learned so much on the trip and I am looking forward to going back there later in life. That first view of the ocean is something that will never leave my heart. I thank you for your needed support in this trip and for your support of the cross country team in general.

Damien Mikkelson (Hawaii 2010)