For most, donning a 35-pound pack and walking for seven miles would be a day-long ordeal. But for the competitors of the inaugural CSUF Ruck-a-Thon, it was a two-hour speed-walking breeze.
The Saturday morning fundraising event was comprised of two separate races: a “ruck” march in which competitors completed a seven mile course for time with a 35-pound pack, and a 5K run that looped around the Titan Sports Complex and parking lots at Cal State Fullerton.
While the event only attracted a total of 29 competitors, event organizers were confident that the turnout would improve in years to come. Regardless of attendance, the competition was fierce.
Sgt. Alex Thompson, an army recruiter who traveled from Temecula to compete, dove over the ruck march finish line with a time of 1 hour, 46 minutes and 47 seconds. He was followed by Tim Dole, a senior computer science major and ROTC cadet.
Competitors walked quickly during the race, occasionally running for short distances.
“I’d do it again,” said Dole as he sat on the grass after the race where fellow cadets helped remove his pack.
Dole stayed behind the leaders up until the last few miles of the race. He said every time the leaders ran he started running as well in order to keep them within range for a final surge at the end of the race.
Thompson and another recruiter, Staff Sgt. Stephen Callans, said they both came out to support the ROTC cadets. Callans finished third behind Thompson and Dole.
“I find trails around the Temecula area so I usually go walk once a weekend just to see the area. I saw this, first annual, so I figured that I would come and give a hand. I know ROTC doesn’t have the funding they want,” Callans said.
The 5K run was won by David Nesar, a senior criminal justice major and ROTC cadet. Nesar carried a strong lead throughout the entirety of the race and finished with a time of 23 minutes and 43 seconds. This was Nesar’s first 5K race.
“It was fantastic. I love coming out in the morning and expelling some energy,” he said while catching his breath and pacing in the finish area after the race.
Sabrina Zimmer finished second in the 5K race, followed by Ebony Avery in third.
Paul Blenz, a senior business finance major and ROTC cadet, said the participants learned a lot from the shortcomings of the first event.
“From the first year, we learned a lot of things from it, so next year we hope to have a lot better turnout,” said Blenz.
The top three winners of each event received medals and prizes from the event sponsors. All other participants were given a small prize as well.
Blenz said the program was shooting for a total of 50 competitors. He added that the turnout was good considering this was the event’s first year. A total of eight competitors participated in the ruck march and 21 participated in the 5K run.
One of the main problems Blenz pointed out was the confusion over the course layout. Competitors of the ruck march were unsure of where they were supposed to go during portions of the race and on one occasion made a wrong turn. The course was adjusted quickly, however, and competitors successfully completed the race.
Prior to the race, the 5K course was supposed to branch through campus but last minute adjustments had the course circle around the Titan Sports Complex. Competitors were able to complete the course without confusion during the race.
Blenz said next year the event organizers would make adjustments to improve signage and course designation.
Alexandra Montiel, a cadet and public affairs officer for the ROTC program, said the event had two purposes.
“Right now we are kind of low in budget so we are trying to find fun ways to raise money for the program and also raise awareness for what ROTC is for the people that don’t know (about it),” she said.
Jeffrey De Castro, a senior cadet who will be commissioning with the signal branch in May, said the funds raised from the race will go toward social events that the ROTC program puts on for cadets over the course of the semester.
“This is our way to fund events that aren’t funded by the government,” he said.
Most of the funds will go toward a formal banquet that celebrates commissioning and graduation from CSUF in May.
By Anders Howmann