PDT Sports Contributor
In the city of Portsmouth, there are many long-lasting traditions that take place and in the process, unite the residents.
This is the case with Shawnee State University’s biannual Bear Run, which will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 18 at 6 p.m. on the campus of SSU. It will be the 37th time that the university has had a Bear Run and will mark the 18th year in a row that the event has taken place since its inception in 1995.
Eric Putnam, the coach of the Bears men’s and women’s cross country teams that are currently ranked fifth and 25th respectively in the NAIA Division I Poll, also serves as the coordinator of the Bear Run and says that the event is a huge one for the university.
“Simply put, (the Bear Run) is the single largest event that we put on all year on campus. It is bigger than any of the homecoming activities, it is bigger than any of our sporting events, (and it is) bigger than any of the Alumni weekend events,” Putnam said.
Putnam contributes the growth and overall success of the event to Dr. Larry Mangus, the original founder of the Bear Run. Mangus was a former cross country coach at Shawnee State who also worked as the Vice President of Student Affairs at the university.
“(Mangus) wanted to get people on campus and he wanted to see the school grow. He felt like a 5k in the middle of the week was a great way to do that and he was sucessful. The Bear Run has brought hundreds of high school students to the campus and many of them have ended up going to college here,” Putnam said.
The efforts that Mangus and Putnam have made to advance the event has been documented in the amount of people that have registered. According to Putnam, more than 1,100 people have signed up to run for next Wednesday’s Bear Run. The record number of finishers is around 1,050.
Putnam mentioned that he first participated in the Bear Run when he was an assistant coach at Xavier University and loves the course.
I love the event. It is a killer course. (It is) super flat and fast, (there are) very few turns and it is on the river (by) the murals, which is probably the best part of downtown here in Portsmouth,” Putnam said.
Putnam’s love for the course shows in his individual performances at the Bear Run, as he has won the event 10 times including a streak of nine wins in a row from the spring of 2004 to the spring of 2008 while running a fast time of 14:37 in the spring 2005 event. All three stats are Bear Run records.
Brian Putnam and John Williams are next in line as they have won the event five times and three times, respectively. Shannon Callahan and current Bear runner Jeremy Hornick have won two Bear Runs apiece.
The women have seen many different winners rise to the top, as nine runners have won at least two Bear Runs. Nina DiTraglia is the current leader in wins with four. Emily Burchett and Tracy Weithoff have won three Bear Runs apiece. Current SSU women’s cross country member Bri Tudor has already won the event twice, in the fall of 2010 and in the spring of 2011. Tudor also has the distinction of being the last runner to win two consecutive Bear Runs in a row.
Former Bear runner and current assistant Chuck Wentz won the event last year in the male division while Arielle Knapp, another current SSU cross country runner, won in the female division.
Pre-registration for the event concluded this past Friday. The day of registration fee is $5 whether a registered participant has an affiliation with the university or not.