On the Campus
June 11, 2008:
relay creates competition, collegiality
Melinda Baldwin GS
One spring day in 1976, graduate students and faculty
members in the Rutgers mathematics department challenged their Princeton
counterparts to a 25-mile relay race on the first Sunday in May,
beginning at Princeton's Fine Hall and ending at Rutgers' Landing
Lane. Thirty-two years later, the Fred Almgren ['55] Memorial Relay
(renamed in 1997 in honor of a frequent participant) is still going
strong, and has expanded to include participants from many other
departments at both universities.
Eleven teams turned out on a beautiful spring day
last month to compete for the right to have their names engraved
on the relay's trophy, and the result was one of the closest races
in years. Rutgers' Fast Fourier Transform Math team turned in the
best time, completing the course in 2:48:27. Less than a minute
later, the Princeton psychology team, organized by psychology graduate
student Susan Robison, crossed the finish line with a time of 2:49:19.
Robert Cooper, a molecular biology graduate student
who ran with the psychology team, said his team faced an unexpected
obstacle: "We lost two people on the race morning, and so two of
us had to run twice." Cooper himself completed both the first and
last legs of the relay for his team.
The course is divided into seven legs, but teams
are permitted to have the same runner complete multiple legs of
the race. One Princeton participant, mechanical and aerospace engineering
graduate student Josh Proctor, ran all seven legs of the relay as
his own team.
Proctor, an experienced long-distance trail runner,
said the experience was different from other races he'd run. "At
every transition point a new runner with fresh legs would start
running," he said. "It was difficult to overcome the urge to chase
these new runners, when I needed to maintain my own pace."
Although many of the runners are competitive and
want to turn in good performances, a spirit of collegiality pervades
the event. "Everyone runs hard and competes for the trophy," said
Hilary Bergsieker, a psychology graduate student at Princeton and
member of the psychology team, "but the whole race is very casual,
and we all come together for a delicious picnic at the finish line."
Sarah Batterman, a University ecology and evolutionary
biology graduate student who organized her department's team, said
the best part of the race "was the camaraderie between runners on
different teams. Everyone's really supportive and just wants
each person to do their best – and most of all, have a good
by Hyunseok Shim ’08