Jacks alumni run to reconnect at SDSU classic


Past and present Jacks ran in the SDSU Classic as a way to link to the team’s history.

Universities are always trying to build good relationships with alumni. The SDSU cross country program has a unique way of going about building alumni ties.

Every year at the SDSU Classic, the Jackrabbits’ home meet, a team of former SDSU runners comes together to compete and help build the program.

This year, the team had runners as young as 24 and three members over 40. But they all have a like-minded goal.

“It feels really good to be able to come back and support the (current) team and do what we can. I think we’re all out there to race and have fun, but at the same time we’re out there to help…it’s good camaraderie with the younger guys,” former SDSU runner and current Brookings High School head cross country coach Chris Gruenhagen said.

The alumni team first began racing at the SDSU Classic seven years ago, after the arrival of current head coach and SDSU alum Rod DeHaven. According to former head coach and SDSU runner Paul Danger, the hiring of DeHaven was a big advantage to the program.

Back when the alumni team first started to compete, Danger was looking for a way to bring alumni back to the home meet. He said alumni presence at the SDSU Classic had faded a bit after the program’s hay days back in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

“In order to enhance (DeHaven’s hiring), especially with alums, I thought it’d be a good idea that we’d re-energize alumni distance running at the home meet, so we started up and we’ve been going seven years non-stop,” Danger said.

Danger went on to say that it’s good for the current runners to see the alumni being active long after their time at SDSU and only makes the program stronger.

The number of alumni that return has only grown since, and this year the team finished fifth out of 10 teams, with two runners in the top 20.

“It’s great to have those guys back. It’s not easy for anyone of an advanced age to go out and compete in any sport. But those guys go out there without too much reservation. I’m grateful that they do it because it’s good for our kids to see that these guys are still connected to the program and want to be a part of this,” DeHaven said.

After all was said and done, one thing was obvious: the alums were happy to be back and be able to give back to the program. Most of the alums had grins on their faces, even though their older muscles might be a bit sore later.

Gruenhagen admitted that the running hasn’t gotten any easier over the years, but the fun remains.

“As long as I can still run and as long as we have a team together every year, I’ll keep doing it,” Gruenhagen said.