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Raising the bar: Ellevold starts new summer workout program at Park

Under the direction of new Park strength and conditioning coordinator Justin Ellevold for the first time, the Park Wolfpack Summer Training program focused on building the total athlete.1 / 3
Park senior Dylan Smallidge was one of the roughly 300 student-athletes to take part in the new Park Wolfpack Summer Training program this year.2 / 3
Along with the revamped workouts for Wolfpack athletes, Park's weight room also got a facelift this summer.3 / 3

There's an old phrase that says "The only place winning comes before work is in the dictionary."

Roughly 300 student-athletes at Park High School put that into action this summer at the Park Wolfpack Summer Training program.

Under the direction of new Park strength and conditioning coordinator Justin Ellevold for the first time, the seven-week program focused on building the total athlete with an emphasis on power and explosiveness.

Ellevold said the days of just throwing as much weight on a bar and lifting it once or twice is done.

"The old-school approach surrounded the bench press, the squats and the dead-lifting," Ellevold said. "Nowadays athletes are focused so much more on power and explosiveness. We're looking for the total athlete. We want the strength, we want the speed, we want the conditioning and we want the agility to go along with that. We want to train fast, so we can be fast."

The new program takes the place of the Bigger, Faster, Stronger training program that was spearheaded by former Park football coach Doug Ekmark nearly 30 years ago. Roughly 100 more boys and girls participated in this summer's program compared to last summer.

Park senior Dylan Smallidge plays football and basketball and competes in track and field for the Wolfpack. He's trained in the different summer programs for the past four years.

"This summer is going really well," Smallidge said. "We have some commitment and kids that are working hard. We're doing different stuff every day. I think Coach E is a genius. He's working on a lot of the little things. He's working on the details and getting all forms of an athlete instead of just one thing - and there's a lot of conditioning. He brings a lot of energy and intensity. He makes us work hard."

Smallidge said he has added 12-15 pounds of muscle this offseason, but has also gotten faster.

"I'm in the best shape I've ever been in," he said. "I've gained weight and gotten faster. I'm really excited for this year."

Ellevold, 32, is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He previously held the position of strength and conditioning coach, along with being an assistant football coach, at North St. Paul High School. Prior to that, he was part owner and manager three Acceleration Illinois facilities in Chicago. The Cottage Grove resident is a 1998 graduate of North St. Paul High School and holds an Exercise Science degree from Minnesota State University-Moorhead.

Ellevold's summer program began June 11 and ends Aug. 3. Workouts went from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and were broken into five groups of one-and-a-half hour segments. The five groups were: Seventh and eighth grade boys, seventh through 12th grade girls, 10th-12th grade football and boys basketball players, 10th-12th grade athletes in all other sports, and, finally, ninth grade boys. Each group's program was designed based on experience and ability, but all focused on technique, aerobic and anaerobic fitness, lifting, resistance training and stretching.

"I think it was a little one-dimensional before," Ellevold said. "The kids were used to doing the same things day-in and day-out. I think what I've brought to the table is that these kids never know what to expect on a daily basis. We're trying to train the whole body and I think we're doing a good job of it this summer. These kids' bodies are finally starting to adjust to the total athlete -- not just the lifting part of it."

In addition to revamped workout routines, Ellevold started the tradition of bringing in recent Park graduates who excelled on and off the field to help train the current Wolfpack athletes. This summer, athletes like Allie Morse, Tessa Sikich, D'Monte Farley and R.J. Alowonle gave Ellevold a hand.

Alowonle, who was an All-State soccer player and a winner of seven state track and field championships, likes what he is seeing this summer.

"This year, there's a lot more kids stepping up and trying to be athletes," he said. "A lot of it is having the self-motivation to do it. That's what Coach E's workout brings. You need to be self-motivated, because it's hard, but it's only as hard as you make it. I wish I was younger and had this program. Right now, the resources we have are really good. If you apply yourself every single day you come in here you can get a lot better."

Alowonle will attend the University of North Carolina in the fall on a track scholarship, Sikich is a cheerleader at the University of Minnesota, Morse is going to play Division I hockey at Providence College this winter, and Farley is headed to the University of North Dakota on a track scholarship.

"We didn't get where we were by just sitting around. We got where we were by being self-motivated and really applying ourselves," Alowonle said. "(Ellevold) wanted us to bring that mentality and attitude and help push the kids. They have the potential, they have the equipment and the workout programs, they just have to apply themselves."

More Minnesota high schools are starting to go to the college philosophy of having a specific strength and conditioning coach. In District 833, East Ridge hired a strength and conditioning coach before it opened in 2009 and Woodbury hired one last summer. However, some programs have had someone in the position for much longer. Wayzata, for instance, has had a specific strength and conditioning coach since 2001.

Ellevold was hired last August. He said the past year has been "absolutely awesome."

"I've been working with a lot of these kids a year now, so a lot of them understand my expectations, where I'm coming from and what I want out of them," Ellevold said. "I think the kids understand that I'm here for them. I'm not here just to be here, punching the clock. There's a reason why we're doing what we're doing. Sometimes they may not like it all that much, but when their seasons start and they start having some success, they can look back on it and say that was awesome. For me, that's what makes it worth the time and effort."