Urban Race pits dorm against dorm in water-themed activities

On your marks, get set, go.

The Urban Race is on.

Although the actual race doesn’t begin until Oct. 27, Beets-Veenstra dorm president Nate Ziegler believes it never hurts to plan ahead.

“We’ve already begun putting together a team,” said Ziegler. “We’re working on a strategy and trying to get a lot of people involved. This is a great opportunity to help the dorm and build camaraderie.”

The Urban Race, now in its second year, is the creation of Doug Vander Griend, chemistry professor and Project Neighborhood mentor. Its format resembles that of the popular CBS reality game show “The Amazing Race.”

“The Urban Race is a Project Neighborhood sponsored competition in which on-campus students race around the city of Grand Rapids deciphering clues, completing tasks and overcoming challenges,” said Vander Griend.

The details of the race, however, are being kept secret in order to assure a fair race for all parties involved. The only element revealed beforehand is the theme of ‘water.’ Aside from that, participants should be prepared for anything.

“You never know what exactly the race will require, and that’s the fun of it,” promised Vander Griend. “I can assure you that it will be crazy-fun and intense. Last year racers learned to dance, scarfed saltines, built fires and stormed the downtown library.”

In addition to the race itself, students can support their team by signing up for the 64-team cornhole tournament. Cornhole, also known as ‘bags,’ is a lawn game where two-person teams try to throw bean bags into the hole of the opposing board.

Pairs will be pitted against each other, and each win earned for a particular dorm or apartment will subtract a minute from the team’s overall time.

As the racing teams arrive back at campus, their times will be recorded. Then minutes will be taken off in proportion to the number of cornhole victories achieved for each team.

As a result, the first racing team to arrive at the finish line is not necessarily the winner. Thus, the tournament will play a key factor in determining which on-campus housing site will receive the grand prize of $200.

“Last year first and last place were separated by about 35 minutes, so I think that the results of the tournament will ultimately determine the race winners this year,” said Vander Griend.

Because the race itself features teams of three, the cornhole tournament gives others the chance to support their team. According to Vander Griend, only about 30 people will be able to participate in the actual race, but 128 more students can be actively involved by signing up for the cornhole tournament.

Aside from the competitive aspects of the event, Vander Griend hopes to also expose more students to Project Neighborhood, an off-campus housing option for students interested in living in an intentional community. Students in Project Neighborhood houses devote time to building relationships with one another and with their neighborhoods, through serving in the community.

“Project Neighborhood brings Calvin students and city neighborhoods together in meaningful and life-changing ways. The race represents that [relationship] and does it in a community-building and unforgettable way.”

Project Neighborhood mentor and Calvin alumnus Audrey Kinder also notes the benefits of getting to know Grand Rapids through the Urban Race.

“I think on-campus students are often isolated from a big part of what living in Grand Rapids is like,” said Kinder. “The race is good way for them to get a glimpse of what Grand Rapids has to offer and what living in a large, diverse community can look like.”

The Urban Race begins at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 27. Interested students should contact the leadership staff in their building to sign up.