From Tenderfoot to Eagle Scout, the long journey to the top of the Boy Scouts ladder is one that Nick Moskwa, Randy Ridge and Brian Smrekar have all made.
"It's hard to explain," Moskwa said. "We share a connection. It's almost like a brotherhood. It has built a stronger relationship."
Scouting is a tie that binds the seniors, who are also linked as members of the Washington Township track and soccer teams.
"I've never had one (Eagle Scout) before and now I have three," Senators coach Teri Barkas said. "All three have great work ethics. All three are leaders. All three are captains. All three are the same type of kids, which are the qualities they have to be an Eagle Scout."
Moskwa and Smrekar, whose dads attended school together, both entered Scouts in first grade. Smrekar had an interest in camping, while Moskwa followed his dad Ken, also an Eagle Scout, into the activity. Ridge, who grew up in Kouts, joined a troop there in fifth grade.
"It really gets you prepared for life on your own, being independent," said Smrekar, a middle distance runner and pole vaulter. "Between the three of us, we're closer than our other friends. Track is an individual sport. You're pushing yourself to do better. Scouts made me in confident in myself in what I was able to do."
Smrekar will have his Eagle Scout ceremony Saturday. Moskwa was honored Oct. 4, while Ridge will be recognized June 23. All three had to coordinate a community-oriented project to complete the process. Ridge organized a bike safety day in his neighborhood. Smrekar headed a park clean-up and Moskwa assisted in the building of a pavilion at the First Presbyterian Church in Valpariaso.
"It takes time. You have to go through the ranks, put in a certain number of hours," said Moskwa, a distance runner.
Ridge, a thrower, finds himself applying those qualilties fostered by scouts.
"Though track is individual, there are kids who are younger. You want them to do better, so you lead by example," he said.
Ridge plans to either attend Southern Indiana and study physical therapy or enter the Coast Guard. Smrekar is headed for Purdue Calumet for engineering, while Moskwa is bound for Ball State to go into architecture.
Washington is off to a 6-0 start in dual meets and hopes to contend for its first Porter County Conference title since 1983. While Barkas has higher profile athletes on the team, her captains' contributions are immeasurable.
"When I'm not there, they just take over, especially Nick," Barkas said. "They go out and do everything. They're helping the young ones. They never say, 'No, it's not my turn.' They care about the team."