Pros and Cons of Drake Relays

So, it’s done. I’ve celebrated my last Drake Relays as a student. I’d like to think I’ll be back in future years to once again join in the festivities, but for now, I think it’s important to reflect upon what has passed and the glorious—and not so glorious— moments of the Drake relays season. So, here’s my list of the Pros and Cons of the Drake Relays.

Me and my buddies soaking in the Relays craziness at Drake Stadium.

Me and my buddies soaking in the Relays craziness at Drake Stadium.

Pro—Everybody’s here!                                                            Alumni, parents, family, friends, future Bulldogs, plus all those world-class athletes…campus pretty much triples come Drake Relays season. And it’s wonderful. It’s the best time of the year to catch up with classmates and see friends who have graduated. There’s events going on every day of the week, and no matter where you are, you’re bound to see people you know.

Con—Everybody’s here.                                                                    I mean, people are great and all, but this campus can only hold so many. To be honest, by the time Relays are over, I’m definitely ready for the crowds to disperse… and for people to give me back my parking spots.

Pro—I actually care about track events                                     This is the one week of the year when you can talk to me about the triple jump or ask my opinion on a pole vaulting champion and I will give you an enthusiastic response. I mean, I really get into it. Seeing world records getting broken at Drake Stadium and people pole-vaulting over the street’s of downtown’s Court Avenue makes a crazy track fan out of me. And though I’m still not super sure what a steeplechase is or how people defy the laws of physics to high jump, I’m a huge fan nonetheless.

Con—I forget to care about school                                                                                                                                       The thing is, for some reason, they don’t cancel classes for Relays. School moves on…but I don’t always move on with it. When there are concerts, gatherings, and track events going on constantly, it’s really hard to focus on homework, projects, and papers. So I didn’t. Now, this week, reality is hitting home and I’m left to pick up the pieces from past Abbey’s negligence.

Pro—WE LOVE DRAKE!!!                                                                                                                                                     Relays is undoubtedly the most spirited time to be on Drake’s campus. We’re all filled with so much joy, noise, and Bulldog pride that it’s honestly kind of crazy. But we’re in it together. Seeing everyone around Des Moines in their Drake gear all week, you know you share a bond with these people.

Con— I’m so tired.                                                                                                                                                                   All that spirit and joy is great, but it’s also a lot. This week, I’m honestly left a little emotionally drained. I mean, it’s a lot of work screaming and supporting and being enthused all the time. I guess it’s just my burden to bear, though.

Beautiful Bulldogs

The Drake Relays is about world-class athletes, campus celebrations, and most of all, bulldogs. Drake’s mascot becomes an all-powerful symbol during these couple weeks every April. In fact, bulldogs are so praised that we even have a pageant to honor the most beautiful bulldog. This year for the first time during my tenure at Drake, the contest happened during the weekend, so I was finally able to go. And let me tell you, it really was beautiful. Though I’m not normally a fan of pageants, The Beautiful Bulldog Pageant is a definite exception.

Tank, the beautiful winner at this year's pageant, gets his own crown, throne, and cape, and gets to reign over  this year's Relays festivities. Photo via Drake University

Tank, the beautiful winner at this year’s pageant, gets his own crown, throne, and cape, and gets to reign over this year’s Relays festivities. Photo via Drake University

Over 50 different bulldogs competed and I got to see them dressed up in their finest and strut across the Knapp Center stage. There were dogs were dressed in scuba gear, a ladybug outfit, and even a pirate outfit. This year’s winner, Tank, was wearing army fatigues. It sounds kind of crazy, I know. But actually, it’s a really fantastic, fun, and important event. It brings the Drake community together to kick off the Relays season, and is just a showcase of what make Drake so special.

At then end of the day, the Beautiful Bulldog Pageant is really about more than those adorable, slobbery faces. It’s about celebrating Drake, raising awareness for canine adoption and welfare agencies, and honoring the memory of our late mascot Porterhouse, who was a therapy dog, adoption advocate, and unifying force of the Drake community.

Then again, those little faces really are pretty cute too. To see them in all their glory, check out this photo gallery. And for more information on this year’s Beautiful Bulldog Pageant, see the story here.

Drake Women’s and Gender Studies

The state capitals, how to write an essay, the lyrics to Remix to Ignition. I’ve learned a lot of important things in my educational career so far. From the tangible and concrete to the purely theoretical, my time at Drake has allowed me to expand my intellectual horizons. And while I’ve had the opportunity to experience a wide range of academic subjects, I can confidently say none has been more important that my foray into Women’s and Gender Studies.

If you’re picturing barefoot women parading around in the grass, reading Gloria Steinem, you’re completely off base…okay, so maybe not completely. But the point is that Women’s and Gender Studies at Drake is complex and multi-faceted. It’s more than reading the theory of Betty Friedan, Simone de Beauvoir, and Judith Butler. It’s Beyoncé, it’s Portlandia, it’s Britney Spears. Issues of feminism and the performance of gender are in the very fabric of our culture, economy, and political system.

It wasn’t until I came to Drake that I was really able to grasp that truth. Until I took classes about Women’s European History, Feminist Theory in Popular Culture, and the Salem Witch Trials that challenged the way I thought about gender and made me question my own thoughts and beliefs. I really can’t overstate how important this has been in my college career. I mean, after all, what is higher education for if not to provoke growth, spur discussion, and develop new perspectives?

Now, Drake is not Oberlin. The University strives to prepare students with a mix of liberal arts skills, but also focuses heavily on professional preparation. And while that’s great and important, I think it can sometimes take too much precedence. You’ll have the rest of your life to work in Excel spreadsheets, memorize chemical compounds, or refine your journalism skills. But you may only have one opportunity to have a big, fascinating discussion about what gender means, where our ideas originate from, and the reality of equality.

Sorry if I’m a liberal arts student cliché right now, but I firmly believe that Drake would be an even better place to learn if everyone had the opportunity to experience at least one Women’s and Gender Studies class. I mean, it’s not my job to tell people what to learn, but I guess I’m telling everybody what to learn right now. As a senior, I have that authority, right? So do it. Take a Drake Intro Gender Studies class. And watch it transform the rest of your life.