While the event itself was a short explosion of energy, the Running of the Freshmen was more than just a sprint across the football field. Gabaldon Hall resident assistant (RA) Savannah Jones arrived with her freshmen somewhat early to the tailgate.
“[RAs] just knew to take the freshmen over here,” Jones said. “This event is a great way for the community to get together and bring together different generations.”
Eventually, more RAs showed up with freshmen following close behind. Some visited the face painting station where the traditional NAU colors of blue and gold were applied in various ways. Fraternity and sorority chapters were recruiting alongside stands where attendees could buy food and NAU merchandise.
Freshman Jeremy Hakes was less excited about the tradition, but more so about the social opportunity he got to experience.
“I wasn’t too completely set on going to university, but when I decided to go I think it was huge for me to participate, meet new people and experience new things,” Hakes said. “I think that’s huge for college.”
As the Lumberjacks arrived, the team was met with fanfare from the marching band and cheer squad. Everyone in attendance cheered and cleared the way for the team to enter the Walkup Skydome. Shortly thereafter, all the freshmen were rounded up to go over cheers during the game.
Then came time for the lineup. RAs guided the freshmen down to the stadium entrance, where they sprinted across the field. At the head of the line were four shirtless students with the letters “NAU” written on them — one letter per student — and a fourth bearing painted axes on his chest.
Those at the head of the line took the opportunity to raise the excitement of the crowd in a few different ways. Several chants were started, the most common being “N-A-U, N-A-U, N-A-U,” and the crowd took a few attempts at performing a wave. The first two attempts were stopped short, but the third time was the charm, and the crowd managed to get far enough to round the stadium corner.
Members of Housing and Residence Life were also present to ensure the event flowed smoothly and that students were safe. Residence Life coordinator Jamie Lloyd said the running is important to NAU because of how it connects new students to the school.
“It’s a pretty long-standing tradition,” Lloyd said. “With early programming, we always want to have as many things as possible to get students connected. The next time you’re on the field is when you graduate, which is kind of a cool bookend to the experience.”
Lloyd also discussed how the running of the freshman creates a memory for students as they go through schooling. Lloyd also said it is a way to show off their love for the university.
“You’re going to remember that you did the running of the freshmen at your college, and you’re going to see it on the video screens, and it’s going to be on social media forever,” Lloyd said. “If you have a Snapchat video of you running across the field, that’s a pretty cool thing.”
Events like this are meant to introduce the NAU experience to incoming freshmen and give them a taste of what school spirit is like at this level. Louie the Lumberjack came out just before the national anthem to give the crowd one last round of excitement. After some silence with respect to the anthem, the door was raised and the freshmen poured into the stadium.
Students of all colors and cliques were rushing in as one entity to be met with excitement from the band and cheering from the crowd.