A Clinton and Mississippi College tradition returns this during this year’s Homecoming celebration. The 5th annual Coach Hap Hudson Homecoming 5K Run/Walk, which is organized by students in the Kinesiology department, starts at Cockroft Hall at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 26.
The race is held on a protected course through the community and ends on the Mississippi College football field track. Registration will begin at 6:30 a.m. Cost for the race is $15-$20 on race day, and the proceeds from the race go toward scholarships for students in the Kinesiology department.
The idea for the race started six years ago when the head of the Kinesiology department, M. Christopher Washam, asked Kinesiology professor Suzanne McDonough to come up with a fund raising idea for the department. It was then that McDonough came up with the idea of having a 5K race.
When looking for a theme and title for the race, she looked no further than her colleague and friend Coach Hap Hudson.
“Hap Hudson has been teaching Athletic Training here at MC for over 50 years. He would come in at 3:00 on Monday afternoons, and we would sit and talk football, sports, running, whatever. We got to be really good friends.
“So when I was trying to come up with a theme for the race I don’t know why I thought of him being the mechanism to draw people to the race for homecoming. But he’s been here over 50 years. He went to school here. And he coached here,” said McDonough.
McDonough also said, “I asked him, ‘People usually have races dedicated to them after people are dead…but would you allow us to name the race after you? It would go along with the homecoming theme of Enduring through the years?’” Coach Hap Hudson was shocked when he received the call fromMcDonough while he was approaching the 17th hole on the golf course that day.
“I was flabbergasted,” Hudson said. “It’s quite an honor. . . .I don’t want to have a race based on me. I’m not dead. And I’ve never been much of a runner.”
But McDonough assured him it was about the idea of physical fitness and a race that families could do together, and it was about the fund raising and bringing attention to the department with a title to go along with that year’s homecoming theme.
It is fitting that this year’s homecoming theme is “Tradition Never Graduates,” which coincides with the theme from the first year of the race, “Enduring Through the Years,” because Coach Hap Hudson has been leading by example at Mississippi College for over 50 years now. He graduated from MC in 1959 and worked as a high school football coach for 10 years.
Like most coaches, his goal was to work at the college level. He began his career at MC as an assistant football coach in 1970 and kept that position for 20 years while teaching four classes every week. Of his coaching career at MC, Hudson said, “I was very fortunate to stay that long as coach. We went through five head coaches. I worked really hard at building the program up. I just liked working.” Hudson still teaches Athletic Training on Monday nights.
“We still talk on Mondays. We have a really good relationship. The students love him,” said McDonough. “He has the most patience out of anyone I’ve ever met in my life. He’s taught me a lot about patience…He’s just a good guy. I’ve never heard anyone say anything negative about the man. Ever.”
There is a lot of work that goes into this race named after MC faculty and alumni Coach Hap Hudson. Working behind the scenes is McDonough, who leads the project and a group of student leaders and volunteers from the Kinesiology Department.
“It’s crazy how it happens,” said McDonough. “There is not a ton of preparation that has to go into it because the students do what they need to do. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
The students run and manage the race. They raise all the money necessary to fund it and each student involved in organizing the race has to find a sponsor.
“Throughout every race, we always keep the price low because we want as many people to race that want to.…having the students go out and find sponsors gets the students invested in their school and community,” said McDonough.
“Every year things fall into place because the students want their year to be bigger and better than last year.” She said it is possibly “something about [the student’s] relationship with Hap” that compels them to put so much effort into planning the race. The four corporate sponsors this year are Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Sports Medicine, Baptist, and Entergy. MC faculty helps out as well, covering different tasks, such as registration.
This is Lindsey Calvert’s second year to work on the race. Calvert, a Biology major and a work study student in the Kinesiology department said, “It takes work, but we have a lot of people who help. I think that it draws the MC campus together.”
The proceeds from the race go to the Hap Hudson Endorsement Scholarship. The race usually brings in $3,000- $5,000. The top two Kinesiology majors receive $500 scholarships. The department sends three to five students to the regional ACSM conference and pay for housing and food. McDonough says there is about $18,000 in the endowment fund and once it reaches $20,000 the school will use the interest to fuel the scholarships.
Some awards from the race will include: traditional medallions, overall male and female winners who will receive their choice of $50 or shoes from Fleet Feet or Stinky Feet, a $25 prize gift or money for second, and a $15 prize gift or money for third.
McDonough said they are expecting at least 200 people this year at the race. However, the numbers probably will not be as big as last year because there are other races going on in the area this year. Coach Hudson said, “You never know how it’s going to turn out. Like with coaching you got to do the best with what you got. I’d like to see a lot of students come. The more the merrier.”
– James Osborne, Contributing Writer