CARBONDALE — After 10 years, it’s safe to call the Saluki Sprint a tradition.
Shortly before kickoff of the football season opener, members of the freshman class sprint out of the south tunnel, across the field to their seats on the north end of Saluki Stadium. The hope being the students will return week after week.
“Our sprint, we’ve been doing it for at least 10 years now,” said Sean Cooney a graduate assistant with New Student Services. “We provide them with a free shirt. You get a free tailgate, free food, the whole nine yards. They get to run across the field as the Class of 2022.
“Our goal is to get every freshman here on campus and any new student in general to do this run. I think 500 is a good number for us to show the spirit and excitement for the new class.”
Prior to “taking the field” the new students gathered on Saluki Row for music, food, games of bags and just getting to know each other.
“Honestly, I kind of like the feeling of it,” said Willie Rodgers, a freshman from Gainesville, Fla. “Really, it’s kind of like family oriented. People are enjoying themselves and there is free food. You can’t go wrong with free food. Also, I’ve met a lot of new people just being in this little area here. It’s really good for mingling, and just networking and everything.
“I wanted to do it just to show my spirit for the school. Since I’m new here, I thought I would just be involved with some of the events that are going on that are kind of like tradition.”
Rodgers came to SIU to run track. And, he had a different approach toward the sprint than some of his classmates.
“I’m going to try to lead the pack,” he said, smile beaming across his face. “Be strong, make sure my knees are up so my coach doesn’t yell at me.”
He did just that, crossing the field well ahead of his teammates.
Carbondale resident Ben Morris has seen several Saluki Sprints. This year marked his opportunity to participate.
“What’s not fun about running across the football field?” Morris asked rhetorically.
As for the experience itself, Morris said staying on his feet the entire 100 yards was his modest goal.
“They made us sign a waiver or something, saying we wouldn’t fall and if we did fall, we wouldn’t sue them. This may result in bodily injury, or death,” he said laughing.
As a Carbondale resident, Morris said he attends several games a year and the SIU vs. SEMO game would not be his only appearance.
As for Cheandton Turner of Chicago, family members have preceded her at SIU. This was her first experience with SIU football.
“To win,” she said simply.
And, taking part of the Saluki Sprint was just a piece of the experience.
“I don’t know … just go with the flow,” she said. “I wouldn’t have to regret not doing it.”
And, for the record, every new student made it to the north end of the field on their feet.