SMC event raises more than $2,000 for student veterans

Published 8:00 am Tuesday, October 6, 2015

(Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)

(Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)

In spite of the numerous obstacles and challenges presented to runners on the 3.75-mile race course, the biggest hurdle that awaited competitors Saturday morning at Southwestern Michigan College’s Dirty Bird race was the cool and damp October weather.

Clocking in with a finish time just less than 40 minutes, the mud-caked trio who finished the course first that morning said that the cold temperature and drizzling rain were the two hardest elements standing in their way to the finish line morning.

“Basically, anything that consisted of water and mud was a problem,” said SMC student Aaron Adams.

In what organizers said was the dirtiest Dirty Bird of them all, 155 students, faculty and others from around the Dowagiac community participated in Saturday’s annual charity run, which raises money for student veterans attending the local community college. Based off just registration fees alone, the school expects to have raised around $2,500 for veteran scholarships, said organizer and Dean of Arts and Sciences Scott Topping.

In a race that promised that competitors would “start clean and finish muddy,” runners — grouped into teams of three to four — were tasked with racing through an obstacle course around the Dowagiac campus. Teams faced 20 challenges along the track this year, which included climbing over set of walls, crawling beneath ropes along the ground, and, naturally, wading through a giant mud pit, which was twice as large this year compared to the last go around, Topping said.

“It was probably the best course we ever had,” Topping said. “It was also a good turnout, especially considering the weather.”

Participation was also strong among students and other pitching in to help out with the event. Around 60 student volunteers were at the event Saturday, encouraging the runners along the course, Topping said.

For the school administrator, a former military veteran himself, seeing the continued support of the school’s student soldiers is “absolutely inspirational,” Topping said.

“It’s one of the easiest events we do,” Topping said. “People want to come in, on a Saturday, in the cold, to either run or help out. Everyone is cheerful throughout the whole thing…it makes me very happy.”