U hosts first Gopher Adventure Race

The 13-challenge race saw nearly 100 students compete for prizes.

Juniors Katie Duffy (left) and Alyssa Sajady  row their canoe back to shore Friday afternoon in the Mississippi River.  The canoe event was one of many in the first ever Gopher Adventure Race.

Juniors Katie Duffy (left) and Alyssa Sajady row their canoe back to shore Friday afternoon in the Mississippi River. The canoe event was one of many in the first ever Gopher Adventure Race.

by Laura Sievert

Kristi Sroka and Alyssa Shefveland adorned themselves in Lady Gaga-inspired bubble wrap outfits and sprinted all over campus
Friday afternoon.

Far from the stage, the two were taking part in a University of Minnesota version of the popular television show “The Amazing Race.”

The UniversityâÄôs Recreation, Park and Leisure Studies program hosted the first Gopher Adventure Race to benefit both University students and the environment.

Almost 100 students competed in groups of two as they ran through the Minneapolis and St. Paul campuses trying to be the first to complete the 13 race challenges and win first prize: $800 worth of merchandise donated by The North Face.

“I have always wanted to be on âÄòThe Amazing Race,âÄô” Sroka, a University kinesiology senior, said, “and this is the closest we are going to get.”

The challenges included canoeing down the Mississippi River âÄî where students had to paddle for about 20 minutes âÄî shooting fake M-16 rifles at the Armory on East Bank and holding cockroaches for two minutes in the Bell Museum of Natural History.

The allotted time for the race was six hours, but the winners beat that with time to spare. Phillip Kelly and William Nielsen came in first with a time of two hours and 40 minutes.

Connie Magnuson, the faculty coordinator for the event, said it was planned almost entirely by the RPLS students and their instructors. Each class that was involved had a specific responsibility. The RPLS leadership class designed the course, while the law class designed the waiver and considered how they would handle any potential legal issues. This was meant to give students a hands-on experience outside of the
classroom, Magnuson said.

“What students need most is an experience in a skill set to help them in their careers,” she said.

In addition to being the first race of its kind, the race was the first collegiate event to be Green Event-certified by FitPlanet. To earn that environmental certification, Magnuson arranged various aspects of the race to fit the FitPlanet qualifications.

For example, the backpacks that each participant was given were made with only recycled bottles and were completely reusable. All the event registration was done online to avoid using paper. Also, Metro Transit served as one of the eventâÄôs sponsors and gave a free ride to participants to ensure that no one had to drive, Magnuson said.

The race also benefited Three Rivers Park District by donating $5 of every $30 registration fee to its Forests Forever campaign. The rest of the registration money went to paying for the event itself.

Another sponsor for the event was Wilderness Inquiry, a wilderness adventure planning nonprofit business based in Dinkytown. It provided two 26-foot canoes and the staff to lead them for the day.

Max Pittman, a Wilderness Inquiry employee, said he enjoyed being involved with his community with events like this one.

“ItâÄôs about getting people on the water,” he said. “ItâÄôs about a new kind of experience.”