At 6 a.m. — or oh-six-hundred hours — the game ball for the 44th Bayou Classic began its trip from Southern’s campus to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Some 90 miles and eight hours later, the ball arrived — in the hands of LSU Naval ROTC midshipman Jacob Woodson, a future Marine officer, who looked like a running back as he assaulted the final 100 yards at an all-out sprint.
“Definitely good PT,” said Woodson, using the standard military acronym for physical training.
Woodson was the final leg of the traditional running relay that uses Navy and Army ROTC members to bring the Bayou Classic game ball from the F.G. Clark Activity Center to the Superdome on foot.
More than 30 midshipmen and cadets from Southern, LSU, Southeastern Louisiana and Baton Rouge Community College took part in the relay. They will officially complete the final leg Saturday, when they don utility uniforms to run the ball onto the actual Superdome turf.
The relay run has been in place for several years now, with the previous record being roughly eight hours and 20 minutes. Marine Captain Chris Wisnowski, in his first year as the Naval ROTC Marine Officer Instructor, set a goal to beat that record this year.
They did, reaching the Superdome in just under eight hours.
The initial plan was to cycle runners through in two-minute intervals, where each runner sprinted for two minutes before handing the ball off to someone who had been resting on a bus.
“After we did that about two times, we realized we weren’t going to beat the record if we continued with that strategy, so we changed it to one-minute sprints,” Wisnowski said.
Said Marine Gunnery Sergeant Alonzo Williams: “Adapt and overcome.”
A day spent carrying a ball nearly 100 miles by foot hit all the military hallmarks the ROTC staff was hoping for: inter-service camaraderie, pride and esprit de corps.
“We’ve got Marines, Navy and Army getting together to accomplish this difficult evolution,” Williams said. “… This right here gives a sense of pride and belonging to the unit.”
Army Sergeant First Class Arenteanis Adams, a staff noncommissioned officer with the Army ROTC at Southern, called it “a fulfilling experience.”
“For me to see them go out and push themselves, even if it’s for a total of 10 minutes, it was very fulfilling to see,” Adams said.