SOMERS — Jacob Spino took a ragged breath as he approached the last obstacle standing between him and the finish line.
Holding firmly to the rope handrails of the monkey bridge, he slowly inched his way along, one foot in front of the other on the narrow rope suspended five feet in the air, as volunteers coached the middle-school student from the sidelines.
Spino later agreed with fellow patrol members Chris Lee and Emmett Kegler that the monkey bridge was one of the harder elements Saturday at Patrol Games 2014, part of the Three Harbors Council Gateway District annual Spring Camporee at Petrifying Springs County Park in Somers.
Across the road, a sea of multicolored tents greeted visitors as scores of Boy Scouts from Kenosha and Racine counties take part in the Spring Camporee Friday night through Sunday afternoon.
The county gave permission for the event at the park, which doesn’t normally host overnight campers.
Most of the Camporee participants were Boy Scouts, explained Bill Milligan, Scoutmaster of Troop 544. Cub Scouts were also invited to get the younger ones interested in the next level of scouting.
Tiger Mania — a kick-off for kindergartenp-aged boys with three-legged races, sack races and other activities — was held in conjunction with the camporee for the first time.
The Patrol Games featured competition in different skills including first aid, survival, leadership and fitness.
Aquatic skills were tested in canoe portage races and outdoor cooking skills were tapped in the Dutch Oven Patrol Challenge.
“These are all elements found in Boy Scouting,” Milligan said.
At the Slingshot Biathlon, scouts had a timed course set with three stations, each with increasingly difficult tasks before shooting at targets. Those tasks included running an agility drill through rows of tires and crawling on their bellies under ropes pushing a small tire ahead of them.
Wearing safety goggles, the boys then had to take aim with slingshots using biodegradable paintballs at targets 10 feet away.
It was the first time Thomas Erickson had used a slingsho. He didn’t feel the events were cut-throat competitions.
“It not like the Olympics where they all say ‘Hey, we’re better than you!’” Erickson said.
The slingshot activity replaced the archery challenge of previous years, Milligan explained.
“We thought we’d switch it up this year; we thought the kids would have a blast with this,” he said. “Safety-wise, this is easier than bows and arrows.”
Back on the obstacle course, most of the scouts found themselves struggling with the chin-up bar.
“We have push-up tests and sit-up tests but we haven’t done pull-ups since elementary school,” Lee said.
While the Knot Rail Challenge involved fine motor skills, the frustration level provided was more pronounced.
Scouts had two minutes to tie six different knots, each getting progressively harder. Examples of each knot were provided, but it still didn’t guarantee a perfect replica.
For new scouts, the games are an introduction to certain skills.
But seasoned scouts don’t always have a significant advantage in the competition, said Tim Krueger, a volunteer with Troop 544 who has two older sons and one who is a Cub Scout.
“When we do these competitions, we have them review because those who have been here three or four years have already forgotten a lot of this stuff”, Krueger said. “It evens it out.”