Prairie Ridge senior Josh Behning enjoyed his trips to British Columbia the past two summers so much that he’s headed back again in June and staying longer.
While most of his classmates will be getting ready to leave home for the new-found freedom of college life, Behning will pursue a more regimented way of life. Behning, a thrower for the Wolves’ track and field team, will put college and his athletic career on hold to help others.
Behning (pronounced BAY-ning) will volunteer to work at Native American schools in Mount Currie, British Columbia., living on a native reservation and working with youth there until July 2015.
“I’ll help them out, giving them a safe place to hang out on weekends so they don’t feel pressured into doing drugs and alcohol,” Behning said. “My church [Evangelical Free Church in Crystal Lake] has sent youth groups in the summer for the last 15 years for Vacation Bible School for first-nation kids. We take them to a mountain and do hiking and camping. It’s a great time.”
Behning was third in the discus and sixth in the shot put Thursday at the McHenry County Track and Field Meet at Huntley. He hopes to throw in college, but first he wants to help others. The past two summers opened Behning’s eyes to humanitarian aspects.
“You go up there to help the kids, but it changes you as a person,” he said. “You get so much joy from doing that. I don’t know what I want do to with my career yet. I’ll do this right now. This is the time in my life where I can do this and not have to worry about other responsibilities.”
Wolves coach Judd Shutt considers Behning a great team member and hopes he finishes his high school career throwing at the IHSA state meet in Charleston a few weeks before his Canadian adventure.
Behning has met the Class 3A state-qualifying discus standard (156 feet, 6 inches) with a throw of 158-4. He also has thrown 52-6 in the shot put, where the qualifying mark is 52-11.
“He’s a teammate through and through. He’s gone to state with us to spectate and study the sport of throwing,” Shutt said. “He loves to support those distance kids, so we’re really rooting for him this year to be able to make it just because he’s worked so hard.”
Shutt said a new dedication to the weightroom has paid dividends for Behning this season, where his shot put throws have jumped significantly. Still, his best shot for state is probably in the discus.
“That’s where he’s more comfortable,” Shutt said. “That’s what he gets excited about.”
Behning likely will look at Iowa Central Community College, in Dodge City, to throw after he returns from Canada. Jacobs graduate and former Southern Illinois thrower Brad Foote is the throws coach for the Tritons.
Behning believes he can learn a lot even though he will not be competing or going to school.
“For me, I’ve always enjoyed school, but thought of it as a task,” Behning said. “I want a year that I can figure out who I am as a human being before I go to college.”