As part of a team-building outing, UW football players were surprised with a visit to the Space Needle on Friday morning. They had to take the hard way to the top.
A hint had been posted on a sign in the Huskies’ weight room earlier in the week.
“There are no elevators to success. You must take the stairs,” it read.
But not until they were handed liability waivers to sign early Friday morning did the Washington football players realize how steep a challenge their final winter conditioning test would be.
The Huskies’ were indeed surprised by their visit to the Space Needle. Racing the 52 stories to the top? No surprise there — it wasn’t much fun.
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“At first I was like, what? This is insane,” linebacker Azeem Victor said. “I’ve been here before, but obviously I took the elevator.”
UW coach Chris Petersen, who, ahem, took the elevator up, waited at the top of the stairs and greeted each (exhausted) player as he arrived. One 300-pound lineman vomited in a garbage can on the viewing deck.
“It felt like it was never going to end,” cornerback Sidney Jones said.
By the time the team buses pulled up at the Space Needle around 7:15 a.m., the Huskies had already completed a workout in the Husky Stadium weight room. Victor went from squatting 380 pounds to climbing 832 stairs.
“Driving up here I thought, ‘All right, I’ll just jog all the way up there; it’ll be cool.’ Nah. You still feel it now. My lungs (are) all hot right now,” running back Myles Gaskin said.
The team climb, done in three separate groups on the Needle’s twin staircases, served more than exercise to the extreme. As they try to make their way to the top of the Pac-12, the Huskies didn’t miss the symbolism in this team-strengthening exercise.
“You go through adversity (and) you can’t take no easy ways out,” Jones said. “You can’t take the elevator, as it was here. You’ve got to take the stairs to success.”
The Needle’s staircases are typically closed to the public. But the public was invited the make the climb last fall as part of the “Base 2 Space” fundraiser for the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and the fastest time to the top at that event was about five minutes.
Safety Budda Baker was said to have the fastest time among the Huskies on Friday — finishing in about six minutes.
Overall, the offense combined for the best time, meaning it got the coveted prize: Top Pot doughnuts. The Huskies now get a couple weeks off before spring practices begin on March 28.
“Everybody got up here, so that’s all it is (about),” Gaskin said. “Just get up here, enjoy it and be able to tell your kids and your family, ‘Hey, man, I ran all the way up there.’”
After everyone had finished, strength and conditioning coach Tim Socha gave a brief address to the team, highlighting the “step by step” process it takes to reach the top. Players and coaches spent a few minutes taking in the sights and taking some group pictures.
Then they all took the elevator back down.