Amazing Race at UMASS

By Patrick Hoff

Cade Belisle/Collegian

On Friday night, University of Massachusetts students ran around campus as they participated in the third biannual “UMass Amazing Race,” sponsored by the Center for Multicultural Advancement and Student Success, or CMASS, and the UMass Police Department.

The event was inspired by the television show that gives the event its name, “The Amazing Race.” It was the brainchild of UMPD Lt. Tom O’Donnell, who worked with CMASS Director Shelly Perdomo to make the event happen at the University.

“I just like the show ‘Amazing Race,’ so I created an ‘Amazing Race’ through Northampton for some youth groups,” O’Donnell said. “When we were looking for ideas here at the University, I thought, you know, I bet you students would enjoy something like this here.”

Students registered in teams of two or three, similar to the way that the television show has competitors working in a paired friendship. Perdomo said that this time around, they reached their maximum number of registered teams.

“We are at capacity, we have 20 teams, which is good. The more people that volunteer, the more teams we can have,” she said. “But because of capacity and staff and stuff like that, twenty is all we can handle.”

The teams each receive a clue to start them off, and then from there, they must race around campus to find subsequent clues, participating in events and obstacles to receive most of them. Cars and bicycles were against the rules, so teams were restricted to traveling by foot.

Some of the obstacles on Friday involved going to the library to find a specific book with a clue in it, making a sundae with four toppings and eating it at one of the dining commons, and counting all the exterior doors of the Mullins Center.

But there weren’t just students joining in on the “Amazing Race” festivities. CMASS faculty and UMPD officers also created teams to compete against the students.

“The students get to see our officers in a different light, so that really was kind of like the essence around us collaborating to do the Amazing Race,” Perdomo said. “It’s a great opportunity for us to build community with our students, but also to see that our UMPD officers are really cool guys, you know, that it’s not just always discipline.”

According to Perdomo, the goal of the event was to show students that there is fun to be had on campus, and to alleviate the pressures to drink.

“It’s really about trying to keep our students here, making really fun activities, building community with our students so that they won’t necessarily feel the need or the pressure to leave UMass and go clubbing or drinking. So it really is around building community, between the staff and the students,” Perdomo said.

Perdomo also said that while the top teams of students who made it back to Wilder Hall received gift cards, it seemed to her that the importance lay within the event and the things students learned, not the prizes at the end.

“Yeah, they’re excited to have gotten something,” she said, “but what I realized at the end of the program was that when the program is over and all the students come back and have pizza and wings and stuff that it really is just a fun night.”

Some of those who participated confirmed Perdomo’s observation. After the two-and-a-half hour event concluded, senior Sarai Zelada and sophomore Fran Burns, who had been on a team with senior Jacqueline Tejada, seemed tired, but still happy to have partcipated.

“It was a lot of fun, just running around campus,” Zelada said.
Burns agreed, saying, “It was a lot harder than we thought, for sure… Zumba was the funnest [though].”

Zelada said that her knowledge of campus as a senior helped her to decipher many of the clues, especially for some buildings that younger students may not know of or recognize.

The team members said they didn’t go into the race with any real strategy, except to use perseverance and willpower.

“We just said ‘We’re gonna win this,’” Zalada said.

Another team, made up of freshmen Marc Aime, a kinesiology major, and Charles Lartey, a pre-med major, had a different strategy in which they split up the tasks of the race.

“(Lartney) can’t run,” said Aime. “But he’s smart, he got most of the clues.”

Aime and Lartey admitted that the first clue was the hardest one for them, but once they got going, they were on a roll, ending up in first place due to the disqualification of Zelada, Burns and Tejada because they skipped a clue.

This is the third time that the Amazing Race took place at UMass, and it happens once a semester.

“It’s a lot of work, and there is an expense to it from CMASS and the police department, but it’s well worth it,” O’Donnell said.

Patrick Hoff can be reached at [email protected]