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Aerial View of the Dowagiac Campus

Thomas fires up 262 Dirty Bird mud runners

Bernard Thomas fired up 262 participants for the third annual Dirty Bird Mud Run April 12 at Southwestern Michigan College with Marine “oo-rah” battle cries for “some of the butt-kickingest people in America.”

Thomas taught history in Dowagiac for 30 years and coached the Chieftains to a 1990 state football title.

Shawn Rawson, SMC Student Activity Center manager, played for Thomas.

“When I coached football, we always played with the four D’s — dedication, determination, discipline and desire. Kids I coached in Dowagiac were not always the biggest people in the world, but they were tenacious — not unlike the people in this crowd.

“I have been a jogger since I was in college, five or six miles a day since I was 20 years old, so I can somewhat relate to what you’re doing,” Thomas said, “but there’s no mud on the road when I’m jogging. I’m not jumping over trees. I’m not crawling. I am inspired by the fact you guys are doing all that.”

“In World War II,” Thomas said, “U.S. Marines kicked butt across the Pacific Ocean one island at a time. They called it island-hopping. My father was a World War II veteran who fought in the India, China and Burma theatre. My father’s military service is something I’m immensely proud of. As a kid, I always bragged about it. There’s always been a special place in my heart for veterans.

“When I taught World War II, I told my kids, ‘Have you ever seen the movie, ‘Saving Private Ryan?’ A real hero is when those landing crafts pull up to beaches and those doors went down. Not one didn’t get off that ship, even though they knew they were walking into murderous fire. Those are heroes — ordinary people asked to do extraordinary things in far from ordinary situations.

“You are about to embark on an 8K course of brutality designed by vets Scott Topping, Andrew Churchill and George Dierickx, who work at SMC. Last year this course had 10 obstacles. These twisted minds added nine more, making it nine times as much fun.”

“This course will push you to your limits,” Thomas said. “We will test your fitness, your strength, your stamina, your toughness, your camaraderie, your teamwork and your dedication.”

SAC Assistant Manager Bethany Whittaker, her husband, Brad, and two friends, Kaycee Sullivan and Whitney Trent, dressed as the Incredibles, the computer-animated movie superheroes, and won best costume.

“I loved it,” Whittaker said of her first Dirty Bird. “I’ve run road races before, but never a mud run or anything like this. It was so much fun going through all of the obstacles as a team and not just running a race as an individual. I think the design of obstacles and course were a great reflection of the military, which was fitting since the purpose of the race is to raise money for veteran scholarships,” including $14,000 with the first two.

“The best part of the course, by far, was (George’s Muddy Murder Pit, named for SMC’s retiring buildings and grounds director). “The muddier, the better! I also had a unique perspective as an SMC employee. I was able to see all the work maintenance and the wellness committee put into making the course, then to be able to participate and see firsthand everything come together was a great experience!”

Another first-timer, Bobbie Jo Hartline, Dowagiac Dogwood Fine Arts Festival secretary, said, “I can’t believe I’m not bloody or broken. It was tough. I was proud of us.” She and her husband, Bob, were invited by Charles Rossow of Judd Lumber Co., best man at their wedding.

“We went at our own pace, with a lot of walking,” Hartline said. “Our goal was to finish the same calendar day. I was so impressed with the course. It was pretty and took us all over campus. The band (Rogue) was a nice touch. We’re already making plans to come back next year.”

First across the finish line in 34:34.2 was Moto Boys, a trio of brothers Karsten and Abraham Richey and friend Rob Cutting from the Marcellus-Cassopolis area, followed by Jehovah’s Fitness from Kalamazoo, 36:09.3.

Underwear-on-the-outside Team Skidmark came in second for best costume as well as best team name. Word to Ya Mudder was the winning team name.

Designated “Dirtiest Birds” was Hackey SAC SAC Attack, a student squad whose members worked at the Student Activity Center at some point in their college careers.

An honor award was bestowed on the indomitable trio of Austyn Kiser, Rebecca Dubs and Hannah Davis for the harmony they carried over from choir.
The refined mud pit included a chilly wading pond, a steep mound with a climbing rope, then a slippery slope plunging into another pool drenched by sprinklers, like a car wash.

At the end, earthen hurdles lurked to trip up runners when footing dropped off in murky brown water in between.

Crawling under a rope net took place on hard ground instead of in squishy mud.

Teams, which crossed the finish line arm in arm, could not advance until each member completed an array of obstacles that included hurdles, tires, rope webs and climbing walls.

Eagle men

Moto Boys, 34:34.2
Jehovah’s Fitness, 36:09.3
Running Wild, 37:22.9
Go Guard, 38:59.4
Abandoned Kittens, 39:05.4
Who Wears Short Shorts, 39:27
Easy Girls, 40:01.6
Neto Paulo, 48:51.2
Thompson Thompson, 1:01.18

Eagle women

Honey Buns, 40:53.9
MAC Inspire, 41:56.7
Dirty Girls, 55:03.3
The Bean Team, 1:10:56
Eagle co-ed

Team Awesome, 39:28.8
Victorious Secret, 42:22.8
Avengers, 44:34.8
Talk Dirty to Me, 44:34.9
Whitneeds, 51:18.7
Charged Particles, 53:35.5
Team Skidmark, 58:39.4
Sheakers, 59:05.3

Hawk men

Jungle Boys, 37:17.2
Hunsberger 3, 40:02.6
Dirty Sac Boys, 40:46.8
The Region Rats, 47:14.3
Mudstache Men, 1:10:45

Hawk women

3 Ladies on an Adventure, 44:47.1
Word to Ya Mudder, 49:43.1
Fuddy Muckin Ladies, 51:58.7
HRH, 52:34.5
Disney Princesses, 53:07.2
3 Shades of Awesome, 56:42.2
Last Minute Moms, 1:00:41
Dirty Martinis, 1:02:25
Dirt Digglers, 1:09:41
Outta Gas but Hauling Ass, 1:12:59
Filthy Milfs, 1:17:40
Dirty Mofos, 1:18:26
Scubba, 1:44

Hawk co-ed

Watervliet Dudes + 2, 44:46.9
The Incredibles, 46:46.1
Run with the Winded, 47:07.4
Kinexus Team 1, 48:49.4
Beauties and Brutes, 50:11.4
The Williams, 53:12
Win or Lose We Booze, 53:14.7
Kru2 Kru2, 53:30.8
Neon Ninjas, 54:58.6
McCullough, 58:21.2
The Rat Pack, 59:04.9
Kinexus Team 2, 59:21
Filthy Milfs, 1:00:00
Muddi Gras, 1:00:00
Chknhwks and Chicks, 1:00:01
Express Employment, 1:04
The Bird Bath Killaz, 1:05.38
The Foreigners, 1:06:08
Free Mudstache Rides, 1:06:32
The Goonies, 1:06:41
Frisky Five, 1:07:24
True Grit, 1:07:34
Electric Butfish, 1:10:05
TMNT TMNT, 1:11:12
The Three Mudketeers, 1:14:25
Tucker Mud Birds, 1:17.21
Grubby Pangolins, 1:20:17
Charlie’s Angels, 1:22:26
Mudder Frakin Queens, 1:22:59
OREOS, 1:26:22