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The Road to Sparks Lute Harriers escort game ball from campus to Puyallup for football game

The Pacific Lutheran University men’s cross country team made the most of a weekend off on Oct. 6, running the official gameball from campus to Sparks Stadium in Puyallup, a journey that covered nearly 11 miles prior to the football team’s Northwest Conference tilt against Pacific University.

“Last year we were throwing around the idea of ‘we should just run to a PLU football game at Sparks.’ Not even affiliated with the university or anything, just run there and watch a football game,” said Connor Bates. “We were bouncing around ideas earlier this year and this idea came up and ideas kept building off it. ‘What if we ran the game ball?’ that would be even cooler.”

Connor Bates with the football down the homestretch at Sparks

With a plan in place, Bates along with Bo Frohock, Cade Hole, Chris Nussbaum, Kyle Rapacz, Trey Robak, Daniel Samson, Tyler Wood, and Riley Wynn decided to tackle the challenge of escorting the ball to Sparks.

One challenge the team faced was finding a route. That obstacle was tackled by Head Coach Adam Frye who found a route that kept the Lutes away from the major roads.

“He wanted to find a route that would be long enough as an adequate long run and also wouldn’t be super heavily trafficked,” said Bo Frohock.

The official "on foot" route to Sparks Stadium from PLU

“For most of the guys I think it was a little shorter than what we normally do on a Saturday. Most of the guy’s long runs are between 12 and 16 miles on average so most everyone had to do a couple more miles before we took off for the game but it was a good chunk of it.”

While a typical drive to Sparks doesn’t seem that hilly, on foot, it apparently is.

“It was a lot hillier than expected!” said Bates.

While it was a unique route, the Lutes kept the workout pace consistent with what they usually do on Saturdays that they aren’t racing.

“We kept a normal long run pace at 7:20 (per mile) or so, the last mile we had to pick it up a bit, but we kept it at a good clip,” said Frohock.

The Lutes eventually made it inside Sparks Stadium. They circled the track and handed off the game ball with Frohock waving the Lute flag as the team ran out onto the field from the locker room.

Connor Bates hands the ball off to the Lute team captains

“It was a great experience to feel really connected with the football team. I think a lot of times we can feel isolated and in our own world, especially as cross country since we don’t have many home competitions and we’re traveling. So it’s hard to feel connected to the other fall sports that compete, so it felt really good to actually reach out and be a part of the larger PLU athletics,” said Frohock.

The gesture was certainly appreciated by the gridiron Lutes who gave the nine runners high fives and congratulations for their effort to make it to the game. The energy carried onto the field with PLU coming away with a 30-23 victory over the Boxers to remain undefeated at home.

Tristan Zucktriegel celebrates with his teammates

“It’s cool that people are recognizing its possible. That people can actually run from campus to the football game and if people can run there then why can’t people just drive there, it takes 15 minutes to get there. So that was super cool,” said Bates.

“I’ve seen some of the football guys since then and they think it’s awesome we did that and it really made it a cool experience.”

The cross country guys made sure to relish the opportunity and have fun, making it their most enjoyable weekend jaunt of the season.

“We had a lot of fun the whole time. We traded off who was carrying the football and it was probably the most fun we’ve had during a long run all season,” said Bates.

While the squad had to make a few adjustments to get all their necessary work in that day, they all agreed it was worth it for the experience.

The cross country team wasn't the only Lute squad supporting football that Saturday with the three-time defending NWC Champion women's rowing team forming an oar tunnel as the team ran out to the field.

“I think everyone felt it was worth it to do maybe a little running before and then do it (run to Sparks). And do more road running than we typically would for a long run just cause the payoff was so great to be at the game and be a part of it and building connections within the department,” said Frohock.

The Lutes have another bye week this Saturday and could very well be seen zooming around Puyallup before gearing up for the 2018 Northwest Conference Championships on Oct. 27 in Portland, Oregon.

Created By
Mark Albanese
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Bailey Plumb

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