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University community shows pride at homecoming race

Oct. 29, 2007

KALAMAZOO--Western Michigan University students took the top finishes in this year's Campus Classic 5K race, including top female winner Abby Johnson of Grand Haven, Mich., and male winner Kevin Rook of Plainwell, Mich.

WMU students comprised more than one-third of the participants--393 of a total of 1,108 --in the 1K and 5K races run during the annual homecoming event. They also volunteered in droves, with about 110 of the event's 150 volunteers being students.

Dr. Patricia Montilla, associate professor of Spanish, says student participation in the race has steadily grown during the four years her department has recruited teams. This year, the department entered three teams, named the Tortugas (Turtles), each with five students, faculty and alumni.

"It's a great opportunity for students, faculty and alumni to get together and share their pride in the department and the University, and to stay fit," says Montilla, adding an alumnus this year returned to WMU for the homecoming race from a doctoral program in Milwaukee. "It's a lot of fun. We're going to keep up the tradition as long as students are interested."

Started in 1999, the Campus Classic is annually one of the four largest events of homecoming weekend. With an estimated 250 spectators at the event Oct. 20, total attendance topped 1,500.

WMU faculty and staff accounted for 48 of the runners and walkers in this year's event, a number that has been increasing slightly over the years. For some employees, like Shannon Landis, WMU director of events, the race is a family affair and an annual tradition.

A volunteer for eight of the past nine homecoming races, she has recruited her nine-year-old daughter, Delaney, and eight-year-old son, Carter, to run in the 1K the past few years. Delaney says the race "gives her a sense of accomplishment."

While most participants have their eyes on the finish line, Landis said it's the start of the race she finds the most thrilling.

"It's exciting to see 1,100 to 1,200 people at the starting line waiting for that gun to go off," she says. "I always have so much fun cheering them on and watching them cross the finish line. It just wouldn't be homecoming without the race."

Complete race results are available online at www.wmich.edu/race.

Media contact: Deanne Molinari, (269) 387-8400, deanne.molinari@wmich.edu

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