Homecoming week begins with 5K run

Local children stand on-stage to celebrate the completion of a one mile Fun Run Sunday afternoon at the University of Illinois´ Homecoming Kickoff Celebration at Hessel Park. Tessa Pelias

Local children stand on-stage to celebrate the completion of a one mile “Fun Run” Sunday afternoon at the University of Illinois´ Homecoming Kickoff Celebration at Hessel Park. Tessa Pelias

By Diana Blickensderfer

On your mark, get set, GO! Homecoming Week is underway, and it started off strong Sunday with the Illini Stride Homecoming 5K Run/Walk and Kids’ Fun Run at 11 a.m. at Hessel Park in Champaign. The annual event was sponsored by Student Alumni Ambassadors and the University’s Alumni Association, and marked the kickoff for “Ignite My Illini” Homecoming Week.

People of all ages could participate. Over 200 people registered for the race, with 180 finishers, said co-chairs of the race Vicki Ger, junior in LAS, and Nicole Alexander, junior in ALS, who have been working on the event since April.

The event was advertised in schools, in classes, on campus and in fitness centers around town, Alexander said.

“It’s a good event for school and community,” said runner Sasha Cuerda, graduate student.

To participate, runners had to pay $10 in advance or $15 on the day of the race. All proceeds will go to Champaign County Unit 4 School District “Warm a Kid” program, Ger said. The organization buys coats, gloves and jackets for children in need, she said.

“It raises awareness so kids can have jackets and be warm,” said 5K participant Sarah Dow, graduate student.

“It feels really good because the event raises money for charity,” Alexander said.

The event used to be held on the Sunday following Homecoming week but was moved to the Sunday prior to help jump-start the festivities, Ger said.

“It gets the community aware of Homecoming and gets them actively involved,” Alexander said.

People came out for various reasons.

Dow decided to run because she likes competing and used it as training for a triathlon.

Scott Winter, graduate student, participated because of “the great fall weather and to support a good cause.”

Runners prepared for the 5K in different ways. Jackie Guth, freshman in Education, has been running since school stared. Dow runs two or three times a week.

Competitors were put into five different categories for males and females depending on their age. Awards were given to first, second and third places.

“I’m pretty happy,” said Cuerda of his first-place finish.

The event would not have been a success without the help of many local businesses, according to Ger and Alexander.

The 5K is an important part of Homecoming week because “it gives people a different option to celebrate,” Ger said.