By Janeece Woodson, Staff Writer
Extreme is what these two University of Missouri—St. Louis students and buddies live for, and they have found the perfect opportunity to prove it. They just need some help from the community of students they have long shared their passions with. Nicolae Burcea, senior, international relations, and Denzel Davis, junior, anthropology, have teamed up with student Blake Newton of the University of Iowa to win a trip to Europe and, while there, finish in a wild race. The three have formed the adventure group Ozaki Wolfpack. Currently, they are campaigning to be a part of Redbull’s “Can You Make It?” competition, a selective struggle that will end in 165 teams racing across Europe to Paris, France, the City of Lights.
The competition’s selection process is based on who can accumulate the most votes within their designated division. Out of four divisions in the United States, the top 18 teams will be flown to Europe; the race will begin on April 12. All 165 teams will begin at various unknown locations. Their goal is to reach Paris in seven days, stopping at various cultural checkpoints along the way. Although it may sound like a fun European vacation, there is a catch, and it has stirred up Ozaki Wolfpack’s interests. Each team must surrender their phones and their money; only 24 cans of Redbull energy drinks can be used to survive. The groups’ progress will be streamed on the Redbull TV app.
“Turn off your cellphones, turn off your TV’s, grab your backpack … that’s ideal,” said Davis. His interest in adventure has been a long-term engagement, as he has been backpacking, surfing, and rock-climbing for years. He bonded with Burcea initially through their passion for soccer, and he met their third teammate, Newton, through auditions for MTV’s “Real World.” Burcea has an aptitude for traveling, as he came from Romania to study politics at UMSL. “I’m a gypsy, so what’s more natural thing for me to do than go wander somewhere?” he said.
The teammates are all confident in each other’s abilities. “We all have experience that the other lacks. It helps to make up for what we need as a group,” Davis said. “If you all like the same things and are good at the same things, then you’re going to fail at the same things.”
Davis’ interests lie in human cultures and how they relate to the physical limits of the human body, while Burcea serves as the vice president of the St. Louis chapter of the lobbyist organization Associated Students of the University of Missouri (ASUM). Newton, a sociology major, focuses on communication and how people form and maintain relationships. The common thread, Burcea notes, is that they all seek out challenges as a way to improve themselves. “All your consequences are on you. You either make it or you don’t,” Burcea said.
Besides the thrill of a challenge, the group has another reason to reach Europe. Burcea, who was placed up for adoption at a young age, has recently come into contact with his Romanian mother. He believes the competition would be a fulfilling circumstance to finally meet his family in person and make them proud. “It’s not about winning,” he said. “It’s about just getting over there.”
The group anticipates that if they reach Europe, the contest will be difficult, yet rewarding. “I think when you find your breaking point, it allows you to go to a new level,” said Davis. “You can learn how to train it, so it can go to a new level of resistance.” He and his teammates acknowledge that they would face the complications of exposure to the elements, but they feel excited to see how they would react to the difficulty level. “It’s a good thing we work better under pressure,” Burcea said.
Ozaki Wolfpack, a name created by Davis, reveals the essence of the team’s purpose. ‘Ozaki’ comes from “Point Break”, a film where athletes attempt the dangerous ‘Ozaki Eight’ tasks in order to show their respect for the power of nature. The ‘Wolfpack,’ Davis said, shows that each teammate could easily choose to operate alone, but prefers to work together. “I hope the Ozaki Wolfpack can one day grow to be a bunch of guys and girls that, worldwide, just help to preserve their area, and do their part to slow down the destruction of the Earth, but at the same time, have fun.”
The group needs the help of their fellow students. The deadline to be considered for the competition is February 25. They are the only UMSL team, but they are not the only team from the University of Missouri system. If they were to reach Europe, they would represent UMSL in a highly publicized and unique event. “Winning is just coming together and being one, and being there,” said Davis.
To vote for Ozaki Wolfpack, or watch a video about their previous adventures, visit redbullcanyoumakeit.com/en/applications/5298/