Competitors on the reality television show “Survivor” have nothing on the nearly 1,400 people who braved the heat and challenging obstacle course June 11 for the 5th annual Wichita Gladiator Dash at Sedgwick County Park.
The event is staged and coordinated by the Newman University Athletic Department and benefits Newman and the Child Advocacy Center of Sedgwick County.
The Gladiator Dash is the brainchild of Newman alumnus Dan Giroux and Zack Steven, who presented the race-focused fundraising idea to Director of Athletics Vic Trilli in 2012.
“Five years ago when they came to me about doing this I looked at them like, ‘You guys got to be kidding me’,” Trilli said. “We had an awesome day, a little bit hot. It’s just been an awesome day for Newman University and Newman University Athletics so can’t tell you how proud I am.”
Obstacle races have experienced a decline in popularity over the past few years, but Newman’s Dash continues to show growth year after year. Trilli attributes the continued success to the location and changing of course challenges each time.
“Obviously we keep growing so there is something we are doing right particularly in this town. We have a great party afterwards and that always helps and we have access to water. Every once in a while you hit that right key and we seem to be doing that with the Gladiator Dash.”
Associate Professor of Theology and Director of the Gerber Institute John McCormick ran in his first Gladiator Dash after receiving a race entry as a Father’s Day gift from his son Ben.
“We had a lot of fun. My younger kids are already talking with me about doing it with me next year. I think I’m stuck for next year, too,” McCormick said. “This is my first one (obstacle race). I’ve been training and kind of running at the track and bored to death. I hate running and this was just a lot more fun.”
Newman University Head Softball Coach Janice Esses also ran in her first Gladiator Dash but had competed in an obstacle race before.
“I liked it, the water features were really great. The obstacles were really good…some were challenging but not over challenging so it was really a lot of fun,” Esses said.
“What’s really cool about this thing is there are people willing to help each other out, so it’s not just people who are in it for themselves and trying to get their own time. There’s people helping others through the obstacles, asking ‘hey are you all right’ which was really cool to see,” Esses added.
The Dash would not be possible without the help of volunteers before, during and after the race. More than 70 helped with this year’s event.
“The volunteers, that’s the work of Mo (Maureen Rohleder) and Jo (Joanna Pryor), ‘MoJo’ as we call them,” Trilli said. “There’s just not enough thanks to go around, there’s not enough time for me to be able to thank everybody that makes this event go off (as planned). It’s just been a huge day.”