Race puts USC-UCLA rivalry to good use
UCLA finally got its signature win over rival USC. For the next year, it has bragging rights over its crosstown enemies.
The win won‚Äôt count toward its 2012 campaign on the gridiron, though it didn‚Äôt even involve the football team. But there were a lot of happy fans in powder blue in Westwood.
UCLA raised $28,510 and defeated USC in the first annual We Run the City 5k run sponsored by the Special Olympics of Southern California on Sunday at UCLA. The event, which raised $51,527 in total, will be held annually during rivalry week at the university hosting the football game in subsequent years. The money raised helps fund the 2015 Special Olympics World Games, which will be held at USC.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a great way to actually get the students and fans and supporters to get out there and run and compete athletically,‚ÄĚ Special Olympics Southern California President Bill Shumard said. ‚ÄúTheir participation will make a difference as to who owns the city.‚ÄĚ
Spirit leaders from both schools cheered on more than 1,000 participants at the event. UCLA met three criteria to win: It raised the most money, had more team members than USC and had 100 people cross the finish line before the Trojans.
It was a typical college sports scene in Wilson Plaza Sunday morning: UCLA‚Äôs band played the school‚Äôs fight song and Joe Bruin helped get fans excited. The USC Song Girls wore their signature sweaters. And, naturally, there was a lack of cheering from USC fans when UCLA‚Äôs totals were announced and vice versa.
When it‚Äôs rivalry week, it can‚Äôt be any other way.
Shumard is no stranger to the USC-UCLA rivalry. He worked in the USC Sports Information Department for three years before eventually becoming athletic director at Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State, his alma mater. He became a member of the Special Olympics Southern California Board of Directors after the organization approached him about holding the Summer Games at Long Beach.
When he took over as president of Special Olympics Southern California in 2005, he wanted to incorporate the competitive spirit of rivalry week into a fundraising event involving the collegiate spirit to which he is so accustomed.
‚ÄúWe want to see that rivalry at its best,‚ÄĚ Shumard said. ‚ÄúWe want both sides sort of getting after each other leading up to the football game the following Saturday. That‚Äôs what rivalry week‚Äôs all about.‚ÄĚ
And it is certainly true that the crosstown rivalry has a life of its own off the gridiron.
Every year, students at USC wrap up and protect Tommy Trojan from UCLA pranksters who wish to deface the iconic statue. Meanwhile, students in Westwood guard their Bruin statue from USC‚Äôs vandalizing tactics. We Run the City is one more way for students to get involved in the heated rivalry, while raising money for a cause at the same time.
‚ÄúIt brings a level of competitiveness,‚ÄĚ Shumard said. ‚ÄúThere were no two better weeks [at USC] than UCLA week and Notre Dame week.‚ÄĚ
But beyond the competitiveness of the runners participating on the day of the race and in the collegiate rivalry itself is something far more important to Shumard and others: the disabled athletes they are raising money for.
‚ÄúPeople forget that our athletes can have that level of talent,‚ÄĚ Special Olympics Southern California Vice President of Communications and Marketing Kelly Kloepping said.
And she has a valid point.
At the 2011 World Games in Athens, athletes competed in 22 different categories of events, including half marathon, equestrian, bocce and even judo. And as Shumard pointed out, the athletes don‚Äôt want to be thought of as different; they take their sports incredibly seriously.
‚ÄúThey do not want you to feel sorry for them,‚ÄĚ Shumard said. ‚ÄúAnd I think people‚Äôs first reaction is ‚ÄėOh, those poor people. Isn‚Äôt that wonderful?‚Äô They don‚Äôt want to hear that. They are competitors at heart.‚ÄĚ
Shumard said things even get a little heated among competitors when it comes to the games.
‚ÄúOur athletes are really no different than anyone else,‚ÄĚ Shumard said. ‚ÄúThey compete to win. It doesn‚Äôt mean that our athletes don‚Äôt occasionally trash talk.‚ÄĚ
That competitive spirit for the Special Olympics is not limited to the athletes themselves, though. Sunday was as much an indicator as any that participants in We Run the City were as fired up about the race, the cause and the schools they represent as they were about the football game Saturday.
‚ÄúI think when you put two groups of people that want to be the best together, with this kind of history, you have to be involved,‚ÄĚ race participant Tony Hobley said. Hobley is the managing director for RAPP Marketing Agency Network‚Äôs Los Angeles branch. His office had two teams: one for the Trojans and one for the Bruins. He raced for USC, and things got a little heated in the workplace and during the race itself.
‚ÄúYou could feel the passion when we were out here on the course, everybody sort of giving each other a little bit of ‚Äėyou know what,‚Äô‚ÄĚ Hoble said. ‚ÄúBut it‚Äôs great. I think this is the start of something huge that everyone‚Äôs going to want to be involved in.‚ÄĚ
Another member in RAPP‚Äôs office, Milton Weaver, was racing on behalf of his Bruins. He was a key instigator in the office rivalry.
‚ÄúIt was very fun, because I initiated the rivalry email in the office,‚ÄĚ Weaver said. ‚ÄúWe had two teams ‚Ä¶ and [UCLA was] winning by about $200, and I put out an email [saying], ‚ÄėI would be embarrassed if I went to ‚ÄôSC.‚Äô And then ‚ÄôSC‚Äôs jumped up by $300 and then we came back and we ended up winning. But it‚Äôs all for a good cause.‚ÄĚ
Though in its inaugural year, Kloepping hopes that the competitive juices that flow in Trojans and Bruins will lead to better events down the road.
‚ÄúAll over the board, we have students from the two schools offering support,‚ÄĚ Kloepping said. ‚ÄúOur hopes are that this is going to get better every year.‚ÄĚ
And though the Bruins ultimately won the day, it didn‚Äôt really matter. What mattered was that the schools had come together for a common goal.
‚ÄúThe concept of the rivalry I think is perfect,‚ÄĚ Weaver said. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a positive ending to a good, fun little rivalry that doesn‚Äôt turn into violence. It doesn‚Äôt turn into real negative energy. It‚Äôs about putting that rivalry energy to a good cause.‚ÄĚ