Highlanders: The Ultimate Team for the Ultimate Challenge

Highlanders: The Ultimate Team for the Ultimate Challenge

I can't tell you how shocked I am at the number of people that tuned in to watch The Highlanders tackle the daunting course of Spartan: The Ultimate Team Challenge. There's simply not enough time in a show to share everything about everyone, so I wanted to lay out a few things for you all. In a sense, give you a "post-show" reaction, and hopefully fill in a few holes and further explain things about myself and my team.

1. 2010 was a very, very tough year for me and my family. Things were taken a bit out of context, and while we didn't officially lose our house, I felt I was failing at everything. Natalie and I were wondering what God was doing and what He wanted with my life. God was working greatly in our family, but I didn't know how or what was next. To help me through this time (in mulitple areas of my life), He started to really bless my efforts in the Highland Games. God used this sport to help me, and I thank Him greatly for it. In my interviews, I talked more about this and how it was my relationship with God that made the difference, but not everything makes it off the cut floor when trying to get the stories of 30 athletes to the public in only a one hour segment.

2. The team that I had the honor of being a part of is comprised of some amazing athletes and people. When we were filming interviews, the producers told me what an incredible team we had that, "You all are not only great athletes, but you all have such amazing stories." As you can imagine, in a show of this style, the human interest story matters more than the athletic ability. When you break down the group, it's easy to see why they are such successful athletes - their drive, determination and competitiveness put them on a whole level that many people not only can't understand, but may never reach themselves. 

- Adriane Wilson: five-time women's world champion, multi-time NCAA D2 All-American and National Champion, Olympic trials competitor. Adriane has changed the game for women in the sport of the Scottish Highland Games. Her ability has upped the level to new heights and her impact will be felt long after she hangs up the kilt. We also have to remember, that Adriane is a cancer survivor, and is an inspiration to so many people. For the show, and the time we spent filming, Adriane was our driver! We filmed at odd times of the and even all night, but she was always willing to take the carload of beef to a movie, iHOP and for plenty of snack runs.

- Katie Crowley: former world lightweight champion, Katie also spent time at the Olympic Training Center as part of the US Bobsleigh team. Katie is an incredible athlete; she shows that on the field at each competition (former collegiate athlete, too) but she showed it on the course. During the week of filming, Katie was our resident medical expert (she's a physical therapist) and did her best to help us (mainly me) keep our nutrition and eating in check. Katie could, and did, run circles around me at the race, and bit it hard at the start line. After the race, she had a nasty gash in her knee that needed stitches, but she was ready to roll again if needed. 

- Nathan Burchett: former lightweight world champion, former amateur world champion. Few people know it, but Nathan has some hops; this dude can jump! Sadly, the show didn't showcase him literally jumping from mud hump to mud hump during obstacle three (all the while, singing). I met Nathan in 2004 at my first highland games and the dude was not only a skinny lightweight, but was throwing bombs. It was joked that he and his family were powered to record throws with Mountain Dew and Circus Peanuts. I also first met Nathan's dad, Daryl, at that competition. As I struggled with the caber and people began to scatter, Daryl stood there and held the caber, helping me learn the event. Daryl lost his battle with cancer just a few years later, and the Highland Games community of the midwest mourned the loss of a great man. Nathan is an amazing friend, father and husband to his family; I was honored to share this course with him.

- Joe Casillio: elite Spartan racer and NASA satellite expert (inside joke). Joe helps run his family concrete business and works like a maniac. The dedication and passion of this guy is infectious, and this group of Highland Beef could not have asked for a better captain to lead us through the uncharted waters of a Spartan Race. Lovingly nicknamed, "Fat Joe," Joe helped push and lead us through the course and coached us up immensely. You could tell from the show, he can run for hours and no obstacle would stop him (his closet full of trophies and medals proves that, too). Yet, it almost didn't happen for us and Joe. Joe wasn't originally assigned to us, but we were blessed with the bearded beast just days before the competition. When our original elite racer backed out for "scheduling conflicts," we welcomed in the best beard in Spartan racing and, in my opinion, the best man for the job. We did our best to expose Joe to the finer things of life like side orders of food, Little Debbies and desserts, but this guy's will proved as long as his beard. You know, Joe, for a runner, you're pretty cool.

There are so many things I could tell you about this experience and the fun I had with this group. It was a once in a lifetime chance to compete and try something out of my comfort zone, and I'm so glad I did it. Most importantly, I pray God was, and is, glorified by my efforts and actions and that sometime each of you get to meet the rest of my team. In my opinion, they are the Ultimate Team for any challenge -- even ones that involve running. 


  • Joe's Mom

    Have to say Joe’s description of his time with you all sounded epic! It is always awesome when life paths cross (as we don’t know the plan just need to embrace it!). The Highlander Beef family is always welcome at our home. I hear we may see you in September! ( and thanks for not using “fat Joe”as a caber)

  • Becky WIlson

    I may have kept the neighbors up from screaming so loud!!! Amazing group of people representing our Sport with Strength & Honor. Great Work!!!

  • Kraig M Downey

    Single-handedly one of the best things I have watched on television this year. What a way to showcase the Highland games and bring a new light to the athletes that complete in it. I think you all did amazing and really had a shot! Well done to all of you and thank you for being such amazing leaders in a sport I love. #riseofthebeefy

  • Tracey Mills

    All of you guys were amazing! We were cheering the whole time. Thank you for being such great role models – and thank you for displaying the HG sport so perfectly!

  • Tim Patterson

    Dan thanks for posting this. I also enjoyed very much watching the episode with you and your team. Last year the company I work for put together a team for the tough mudder challenge. It was a lot of fun to do. Even though it was ten miles long and took all day, it was a lot of fun for everyone involved. I have always look up to you for inspiration for the Highland games and for lifting. I had a question I was wondering if you could shed some light on for me. How do you feel this experience on Spartan: The Ultimate Team Challenge has affected your view on your training for the games?

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