This Saturday, 18 teams ranging from Biology to Women’s Water Polo will descend upon MAC Field at 11 a.m. and compete in the Grinnell Relays. Although the event was not held last year in its full glory, excitement is running high. First played in 1973, Wayne Moyer, Political Science, began the Relays as a way for students to relax before final exams.
“We decided to make it a parody of the Drake Relays,” Moyer said. “And rather than emphasize super-competitiveness, make it like a Sunday school picnic with beer.”
Moyer got the idea for the event from his time at Yale. The first Relays pitted North Campus against South Campus in a number of drinking-related events. A weekend and three kegs of beer later, a tradition was born.
“It went over well,” Moyer said. “We carried it through till 1987 and we added some events, the most famous I guess was the Babe Ruth Bat Relay, where you run, put your head on a baseball bat, go around it 10 times and then go back to the starting point, which is a study of parabolic trajectories. [The] Titular Head contest came in at that stage, and it sort of became a big spring weekend.”
In 1987, the Relays were replaced by functions that were less alcohol centered, because of new state laws. Moyer said that the Relays just haven’t been the same since. The event came back during the ’90s and early ’00s but was plagued by bad weather. This year however, SGA films chair Jeff Sinick ’09 has tried to breathe new life into the 36-year-old tradition.
“The last couple years that I’ve been here, the Relays have struggled kind of a bit,” Sinick said. “Relays the last three years haven’t happened in big, full-fashion form as a community event the way it used to be, so I wanted to bring it back.”
However, Sinick has instituted some significant changes to re-emphasize the community building.
“We came up with an idea on how to alter the events so all the events are based on academic departments instead of being themed around beer,” Sinick said. “We tried to include professors, community members and staff. So it’s going to be a huge event.”
Cassey Koid ’11 and Allyse Hellmich ’11 put together a team of biology majors and “science-y” types. The two second-years have three biology professors, Gregg Whitworth, Shannon Hinsa-Leasure and Elizabeth Queathem on their team.
“It took a little convincing,” Koid said. “They were waiting for one prof. to say yes, and then the other two said yes.”
“One had to make the big step and then the others followed,” Hellmich said.
But once the team was together, they were able to concentrate on more important matters, like the team name.
“We decided on The Onions because we will make the competition cry,” Hellmich said. “But that wasn’t science-y enough so we looked at the scientific name, A. cepa.”
Despite their name, the A. cepas are just looking forward to taking part in the Grinnell tradition. They just want to have fun and see their professors and classmates in a non-academic setting.
“We thought it would be a really good opportunity to get to know these profs outside of that environment,” Koid said. “And this week is really rough for a lot of people so going out there would be really nice and de-stressing.”