Students, community face Death at Dawn

As of 6:30 this morning, about 50 Cookeville residents left Tucker Stadium as they completed their two week challenge, “Death at Dawn.”

The event includes, “a lot of running, a lot of cold, a lot of sleep derivation, but it’s worth it for the T-shirt,” senior psychology student Alex Campbell said.

DAD is a biannual boot camp that began in 2004. The conditioning practice was created with the intention of building stamina for the Cookeville High School girl’s soccer team in 2004 but has now evolved into a local event. Larry Epps, vice mayor of Cookeville, and another father of a girl on the team were the originators of this idea.

“The boy’s soccer team soon joined in as did lacrosse,” said Tracy Epps, wife of Larry. “Parents wanted to exercise too and alumni wanted to come back, so we opened it up to anyone high school age or older. It has always been totally voluntary and free to participants.”

To finish DAD, a participant must attend nine out of the event’s 10 days of workouts, set between the hours of 5:30 and 6:30 a.m.

Within the last few years, more college students have joined in on it.

“It shows us that young people enjoy being part of a group and being a bit renegade and doing something a little crazy that they don't have to do,” Tracy Epps said. “Or else they just want a free T-shirt!”

Senior elementary education major Jessi Persson is doing DAD for the first time and believes “Death at Dawn is an opportunity for me to start my day by pushing my body to the limits.”

Throughout the last two weeks, the weather has remained at or below freezing in Cookeville. Freshman basic business major Christy Le described it as “cold and tough.”

However, “when 6:30 a.m. comes rolling around, the feeling of finishing for the day is incredible,” Le said.

Junior psychology major Morgan Reavis is back for a second time at DAD to say, “Even though it is exhausting, and you want to quit with each step because your lungs are on fire, that in the end you come out much stronger than you could ever imagine.”   

“…and you’re better for it,” Reavis said.

DAD holds a session every winter and summer and is expected to grow in numbers of voluntary participation.

Tracy Epps said the event is about “inspiring people to be better, to say ‘why not’ instead of ‘why.’ No excuses.”