Class of 2022 wins the Hudson Relays after a year like no other


Benjamin George

Class of 2022 posing after their victory

Shreyas Banerjee, A&E Editor

The 111th annual Hudson Relays took place this past Saturday April 24, marking the latest iteration of Case Western Reserve University’s oldest campus tradition. Starting in 1910, the event commemorates the campus move of the former Western Reserve College from nearby Hudson, OH to Cleveland, OH, with the relay race originally starting in Hudson and ending in front of Adelbert Hall in a 26 mile track. 

Though the event has changed over the decades––with iterations since the 1990s transitioning to a lengthy mile loop around campus for safety reasons––it has marked one of the only consistent student activities that has truly united the campus. The relay race features teams representing the four years of undergraduate students, along with another one representing either alumni or graduate students. 

The Hudson Relays is a friendly competition that has historically bound CWRU culture together. Now after a year where student life has unfortunately been forced to take a back burner, where does that leave the event?

Last year’s Hudson Relays was the largest deviation yet, with the entire event taking place virtually after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Dubbed the “Hudson Relays at Home,” a live webcast showed personally submitted photos, videos and narratives rather than a live race. This year, the event returned to form with students once again running around campus, albeit with still quite a few modifications. The 26 mile loop was replaced by a 5 mile single lap, while smaller teams represented each class. With ten people on each team, rather than the usual 50, the Relays transformed into a shortened affair, though the heart of the event remains the same. 

Like before, the race starts and ends at the rock in front of Adelbert Hall, where the winners of each year’s race are forever inscribed. As per tradition, the race includes the usual recognition of former chemistry professor, Dr. Ignacio Ocasio, or “Doc Oc,” who was such a Hudson Relays fan before his sudden death in 2005 that a statue of him is right next to the rock. Additionally, a steak and beer dinner is promised by the university president to whichever class manages to win all four of their years––a feat that has only been accomplished three times. With steak at stake, the competition is fierce and the victories much desired.

Opening the event, interim President Scott Cowen remarked, “50 years ago, I started my career here at Case Western Reserve University, where I joined you today for this particular race,” before going on to say that when he was a participant, his running shorts slipped off due to the rain, forcing him to walk the rest of the way with no pants. “I’ve never run again since that time.”

Cowen continued after thanking the Class Officers Collective, the student organization that runs the event, stating, “This is an unusual year to be doing this, but that doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that you are maintaining a legacy of 111 years.” He continued on to say, “Universities are defined by their history and this is an amazing one that started in Hudson and winds up here. When Western Reserve started up, they never realized what would come of this was Case Western Reserve University, one of the greatest universities in the world … and I can say that because of all of you and what you have done … Despite this pandemic and this crisis, you kept the legacy going, and that tells you about the continuity of organizations and the good spirit of people which you all demonstrate.”

This year, the event was live-streamed in a webcast hosted by third-year marketing major Alex Gould and first-year student Sedona Jolly, both of whom commented many times on how remarkable it was that an in-person Hudson Relays was even possible this year. Through this webcast, the runners were followed along with cameras all along the route, some stationary and others mounted on golf carts. In addition to interviews with participants and administrators, there were student-submitted images of their favorite outfits, running routes and home workouts interspersed throughout the 25 to 30 minute run.

One such administrator was Vice President for Student Affairs Lou Stark, who commented, “This tradition is second to none because it ends the school year and culminates in a celebration of our legacy, school spirit and pride. Just to be able to do it this year is terrific.”

In the end, the Class of 2022 came out on top with a time of 25 minutes, followed closely by the Class of 2024. In third place came the Class of 2021, with the Class of 2023 and the team representing graduate students making up the tail end of the race. All five teams were relatively close together, with all teams finishing the race within 30 minutes, a feat facilitated by the smaller course. In recognition of the efforts made by all students this year, President Cowen subverted tradition by announcing at the closing ceremony that all 50 students who participated in the unusual 111th Hudson Relays would be receiving the honorary steak dinner before the end of the semester. With the successful completion of an in-person Hudson Relays, hopefully it will be one of the first of many more in-person events to come over the course of 2021 as the pandemic starts to abate in the U.S.

Though the third-year class may have been the victors, President Cowen acknowledged the entire student body, saying “There has never been a group I’ve been more proud of than the Case Western Reserve University students, and how you’ve all handled yourselves during this pandemic. You have followed the rules of the road, you’ve done your work during unprecedented times with dignity and while keeping each other safe. As a university president and a professor and just someone who loves higher education, you are all the best.”