By Kirby Neumann-Rea • Of the News-Register • 

Inaugural Race to Space event helps Linfield students ‘learn on the run’

Linfield University’s one-mile Wellness Trail served as a somewhat swampy base for a May 14 event that was about both student learning and community running.

The first Race to Space, named for its co-timing with McMinnville UFO Festival, was the largest event planned and organized yet by students in the Economics of Running class taught by Prof. Randy Grant.

The event offered the unique format of giving individuals or teams the choice of one, three, six and eight-hour runs, and a four-person relay. Students clocked their laps, and stood by with ample water, snacks and support.

About 30 people participated – fewer than hoped, but student organizers were happy with the result.

“The numbers were poorer than we expected, but there are a lot of factors. Some we could have done better and others are out of our control,” Grant said.

The class is held only in spring semester, but the date needed to be planned last fall, race director Josh Oakley noted, crediting Grant, who he called “a fanatic runner” with the energy and knowledge behind it.

“Last week in general we had a lot of rain, and the course is pretty muddy in places, and we anticipated it being better,” said Oakley, a sophomore sports management student from Canby. That led to the need to move the tents and base of operations off a grassy area onto a paved drive next to the Wellness Trail, a public area on the south side of campus next to Booth Bend Road.

“Many people out here have run this trail hundreds of times and they’re used to it, whether it’s great or running water,” Oakley observed. “People love running in the mud.”

Oregon Roadrunners Club provided tents, the sound system and other equipment, and the students partnered with Yamhill Community Action Partnership, accepting food bank donations as part of the event.

“I feel like the number one thing is to have key sponsors to work with,” Oakley said. “We volunteered as a class with other races, and getting those learning experiences puts you on the right a path for race day itself.”

The program has done smaller races in the fall and at Christmas, and when it came to planning Race to Space, Grant said, “We thought with better weather in May, the upside is you have nicer conditions and runners are in the mode of training for summer marathon, so the hope was to catch more runners this time of year, but the challenge is you have more races happening this year.”

He said the Race to Space date had to be confirmed before they knew that UFO Festival would go forth, but once underway opted to give their event a similar theme to tap into the vibe.

Similar events have happened in other places, but it’s believed to be a first for Mac.

“It’s awesome for the students,” said runner Susie Grant, Randy’s wife. “There are a lot of events going on this weekend, other big trail runs,” in addition to the May 14 Abduction Dash.

“It’s a little wet but we’re trail runners and we’re used to the wet,” said her running partner for the day, Tawny Molehan. “I love the wellness trail; we’re so lucky to have this. We can call this a flat, fast course.”

Randy Grant said since the class is offered every two years, it’s always a new set of students, so in some ways it’s starting from scratch.

“But as long as we have bodies out here running, we have some participation, we got to go through the process,” Grant said, “and as long as students get to go through the process, and a lot of it happened well before today, they get to see it executed. Hopefully they get an appreciation for the runners’ experience and the joy they get from it and the camaraderie among the runners.

“Perhaps it inspires them to not necessarily take up running but find a passion and keep at it, and for some of them they may never do a distance run, but they might take it up or volunteer at the next one,” added Grant, who’s been teaching at Linfield since 1993.

“The event itself is about how to put on an event, and learning from those events in economic terms things like market failure and how you can relate running and sports in general to economic terms and learning that way,” Oakley said. “As a Sports Management major, I find it useful, because sometimes in the classroom you see these graphs and numbers and they don’t mean a lot but when it’s something you experience it’s a lot easier to understand.”

Here are the results of Race to Space:

In the four-person Space Spring relay race, Mandalorians – Sunisa Chanyaputhipong, Natalie Lai, Ryan Lai and Tony Lai, competed along with Galaxy Goons — Desiree Austin, Gary Davis, Michael Flatau, and Jeff Locke.

In the one-hour Moon Shot race, Amy Oakley and Caroline Schoonveld finished four laps, Troy Tahlor and Jenna Mihelich did three, and Sandy Nippert, Matthew Gribbins and Amber Gribbins, two.

For the three-hour Mission to Mars, Henry Kibit made it 15 laps, Wendy Autencio-Brooker and Tony Gunness, 10; Ashlea Haehl, nine; Dodo Boisvert, seven; and Daniel Haehl, two.

Two runners tackled the six-hour Solar Shuffle: Charles Fisher with 10 laps and Susie Grant with six.


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