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Keough hosts chariot race

Jonathan Retartha | Friday, October 3, 2003

After a seemingly endless September filled with harder classes, later hours and shorter weekends than last year, the month of October has rolled in with a few surprises. Who would have thought that the winter gear would have been dragged out so early, or that we’d still be watching Cubs baseball at this point? It is in uncertain times such as these that campus traditions take on a whole new meaning around campus, and this weekend’s Keough Chariot Race promises to live up to expectations.

The men of Keough Hall have been working since the beginning of the school year to prepare for their signature event. Keough’s two hall co-presidents, Chris Dove and Joe Sweigart, spearhead the preparations for the 6th annual Chariot Race. As leaders in the dorm, both recognize the importance of the event in establishing a close-knit community in the dorm, and building a solid reputation for the dorm.

“It’s the first big event of the year,” Sweigart said. “We feel it sets the tone for our whole year.”

The planning phase is a daunting process. “We have two commissioners, a dance commissioner and a social commissioner,” explained Keough treasurer Jimmy Flaherty. The social committee is in charge of all the daytime events, which include the chariot races from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., food and drinks from Subway and Papa John’s, a performance from the Notre Dame Pom Squad at 12:30 p.m., inflatable jousting tournaments, and the ever-popular mud-wrestling event. The Dance committee is in charge of organizing the Keough hall dance at the Oak Room Saturday evening. Nevertheless, Sweigart proudly notes that, “planning has been going really well.” The hall officers are also quick to recognize the contributions of the freshmen in organizing this year’s event.

“Surprisingly, we’ve been very lucky,” Flaherty said. The freshmen have received praise for taking on some major booking and planning responsibilities, as well as offering a great deal of help in preparing Keough’s chariots.

Sweigart attributed the success to the character of Keough’s men. “Our guys get together, we put together a great event,” he said.

Arguably the most popular event of the day other than the races is the mud-wrestling. In explaining the popularity of the event and why people should attend, Flaherty was quick to note the key draw of “girls rolling around in the mud.” One of the only events of its kind, the mud wrestling offers both men and women a chance to prove their mettle against their dorm mates. Flaherty goes on to explain the event as “pretty much all out, uncontrolled mayhem.”

Promotion and media attention have been huge for this weekend’s festivities. This year, Sweigart notes, “publicity is huge.” ESPN has approached Keough showing interest in filming the event. The event will be featured in the Sports Illustrated On Campus issue for this weekend.

It is no surprise that the event falls on a non-football weekend for the Irish. The Keough men plan to capitalize on the lack of activities this weekend, and hope to draw at least a thousand people this weekend. Sweigart also adds that the event has gained such popularity in just six years because if offers the students a chance to show the kind of unity expressed throughout the football weekends on a weekend when they would probably be inside not doing much of anything. “People want something to do,” Sweigart said.

He acknowledges that the event would be nothing without the great support by the dorms. Twenty-six dorms have registered chariots for the tournament. In addition to the other dorms, each of Keough’s seven sections will compete.

While the forecast on Saturday only calls for a small chance of scattered showers, the early cold snap inflicting Michiana serves to offer more of a concern to the planning committees. “There will be fewer people in togas,” Sweigart said, who recognizes that the cold may deter people from attending.

Nevertheless, he and his staff are confident in drawing a great crowd and having a great time. While events such as jousting and racing will probably not be affected by the cold, the mud-wrestling is a different story. But, strong leadership demands a positive attitude, and nobody has a better attitude than Swiegart.

“Mud wrestling in the cold can certainly have advantages,” said Sweigart. He thinks very few people are concerned about the effects of the weather, and points out the abundant food and drink as a way to warm up and get a good meal on a day that dining hall food may just not be worth the trip.

While the atmosphere is one of fun and excitement the day before the event, there is no doubt that each dorm is hungry to claim a victory from the Keough men, who have dominated in the chariot tournament in recent years.

Flaherty is quick to offer some insight into Keough’s winning tradition by saying, “We find a way to win … we always end up winning.”

The other dorms, of course, cry foul every year in the ways that Keough finds their way to win. Flaherty recognizes the claims of cheating, and is more than assertive in proclaiming, “it’s always clean.”

Cold weather and cheating aside, the men of Keough take much pride in their hard work and effort that promise to make this year’s chariot race one of the best ever. It is in collaborative dorm efforts like the chariot race that Notre Dame’s residence life tradition further establishes its legacy, even thought the event may not be a main stop on campus tours this weekend.

In generating excitement and dorm spirit, the Keough men have already achieved many of their goals to provide a great event to bring the campus community together. No matter which event you come for, whether it be racing your own chariot, living your American Gladiators fantasy with the jousting sticks, enjoying some good food or simply taking in the sights and sounds, there is something for everyone at this Saturday’s Keough Chariot Race.

Contact Jonathan Retartha at jretarth@nd.edu