If it’s outside, Ekeren does it

Reed Rombough

Remember playing outside as a young whipper-snapper? Whatever happened to those days? It seems like modern day youngsters spend more time indoors playing video games or watching TV.

The days of the question “Can Timmy come out and play?!” are long gone.  Now, even 75 percent of our student body stays inside and plays video games – 99 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot.

Not Ben Ekeren, though. He is 23 years old, and he’ll still play outside with you. Ekeren is a fifth-year senior landscape architecture and environmental management double major, but ladies, he’s also much more.

Ekeren is the Travis Pastrana of SDSU – his friends will be the first to tell you that he seems to be good at everything. He grew up on a farm north of Yankton, but this guy is not an ordinary farm boy.

He was the classic adolescent wannabe stuntman. However, when other kids hit age 16 and their Walmart “Next” bikes started cobweb farms in the garage, Ben just biked harder. He got a job at the Yankton bicycle shop in high school and turned his hard-earned greenies into the $5,000 worth of bicycles now chilling on his Subaru wagon. Ben Ekeren is a prairie-raised, downhill mountain biking machine.

At the age of 17, Ekeren won the Terry Peak Downhill Race, making him the number-one downhill mountain-biker in South Dakota before he could even grown hair on his chinny-chin-chin. Since that race, Ekeren has competed in downhill races all over the country, including major venues like Crested Butte, Colo., and the John Fisher in Fresno, Calif.  Since his debut on the downhill scene in 2004, the popularity of the sport has skyrocketed, making the competition even stiffer.

Two weeks ago, Ekeren once again made the two-wheeled plunge down Terry Peak with slightly different results: fifth place. I sat with Ben at his SDSU Rockwall job the day after his race and asked him how he went from first to fifth.

“Downhill’s gotten more popular now. Stiffer competition. Oh, and I ate it on my second run; that doesn’t help,” he said.

Ekeren came around a sharp turn and his front tire smoked a rock, throwing him to the dirt and adding 22 seconds to his time. That rock dropped him from third place on the stand to fifth and an honorable mention. When I asked him if he was mad he just smiled and said, “No, I just had fun, man.”

Downhill isn’t Ekeren’s only hobby. He’s dabbled in snowmobile racing and he’s easily one of the top five rock climbers in the region. Not only that, he’s an avid archer and sportsman, an up-and-coming mountaineer, and a slackliner; he also shreds double black diamond powpow on his snowboard.

Why am I promoting Ekeren like a contestant on a bad TV dating show? He is a good example for all of you who should put down the video game controller. There is a whole world outside of your flat screen TV that has endless possibilities. If you want more out of your life, if you want to look back on your life with a smile, if you want to experience the world like never before, then go outside.

Editor’s note: Reed Rombough is a wildlife and fisheries major. You can reach him at [email protected]