Last modified: Monday, April 9, 2012
25th running of the women's Little 500 will be 'under the lights' April 20 at IU Bloomington
Men's Little 500 will take place at 2 p.m. April 21
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 9, 2012
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- From four sorority members training in the basement of their house to competitive cycling on the same terms as the men, the women's Little 500 has become an important event at Indiana University Bloomington. The IU Student Foundation will present the 25th running of the women's race on Friday, April 20.
As in the men's race, now in its 62nd year, a full complement of 33 teams will compete in the women's race. The women's Little 500 will be held "under the lights," beginning at 7 p.m.
The men's Little 500 will take place the next day, April 21, beginning at 2 p.m. Both races will take place in Bill Armstrong Stadium, off Fee Lane, just north of its intersection with 17th Street.
Once again, both Little 500 races will be presented live nationally in high-definition television by HDNet. The IU Alumni Association has arranged for viewing parties around the country.
More than 25,000 people attend the races every year, with the proceeds used for working student scholarships at IU. The 2011 races allowed the Student Foundation to give away more than $35,000 in scholarships.
'We went for it'
The origins of the women's Little 500 date back to the winter of 1986, when four friends at Kappa Alpha Theta sorority -- Lee Ann Guzek Terhune, Martha Hinkamp Gillum, Darcy Fieck and Kathy Cleary Kallner -- found they had a mutual interest in cycling.
After Kallner spent a semester in England, where she had ridden in triathlons, the four immersed themselves in training and were the only women to attend a Little 500 mass riders meeting in January 1987.
"Initial reaction was that this wasn't something that women do," said Gillum, today the mother of twin daughters and an attorney in Winnetka, Ill. "I think that stems from the fact that people don't always embrace change. The Little 500 was so entrenched at that time period as a men's race."
Up until that point, the primary activity for women during Little 500 weekend was Mini 500, a tricycle race that had outlived its relevance. Another earlier group of women, "Team Doubletake," also attempted to qualify for the men's race, in 1981.
"I don't want to say that it was a men versus women thing, because it wasn't," Gillum said, adding that opposition came from traditionalists across campus and some male riders. However, most of the men riding in the race were supportive, as was the IU Student Foundation.
"We looked at it as trying to do something that we thought needed to be done," she said. "We just had it in our minds to do and we went for it."
Their first two efforts to qualify for the 1987 race were marred by dropped exchanges, and the team would retry at the end of the day. While waiting several hours for their next attempt, interest in the team grew. They became the day's major news story, their sorority rallied others in support, and when they took the track again at the end of the day, the crowd was at its largest.
A time of 3:03.72 initially garnered them a place in the race, but eventually they were bumped along with four men's teams. The following October, the IU Student Foundation announced the formation of the women's Little 500, and the following spring the first race was held with 31 teams. A team from Willkie Sprint won the inaugural women's race, with the Thetas coming in second place.
Continuing the legacy
Kappa Alpha Theta has since won the race four times and up until last year has finished in the top 10 annually. Last year, Teter Quadrangle won the women's race.
"Most women riders feel grateful for the riders that came before them, and alumni are overwhelmed with pride for what the race has become," said Dana Cummings, IU Student Foundation director of development and student programs. "This year will be particularly special, since we will have a full field of women's teams."
"It feels incredible to be a part of the legacy of the women's Little 500," added Emily Loebig, a junior from Cincinnati riding for Delta Gamma sorority in this year's race. "The women worked so hard to get their own race, and all of the current riders owe everything to them. The things we accomplish, the relationships we build, and the memories we create from the Little 500 are all thanks to the women in Kappa Alpha Theta who wanted to race 25 years ago."
The decision to run the women's race at 7 p.m. was to allow more accessibility for fans who may be traveling after work and students who may still have class at 4 p.m., said Jordan Bailey, IUSF assistant director. "This milestone year is a perfect opportunity to highlight the women's race and making it more exciting for the riders and the fans."
Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, an IU alumnus, will serve as grand marshal for Saturday's race. IU first lady Laurie Burns McRobbie will be the grand marshal on Friday. For the first time, there will be fireworks at the conclusion of the women's Little 500. Women who competed in the race in 1988 and other years will gather to commemorate their milestone at a barbecue before the men's race.
In the men's race, 11-time winners the Cutters, an independent team, will defend their wins over the four consecutive years. Beta Theta Pi is on the pole.
Bailey notes that every year the field seems to expand from simply Greeks, dorm teams and independents. There are a few international student teams, such as Team Mezcla, and the Rainbow Cycling team, which evolved from GLBT efforts on campus.
Another major supporter of the women's Little 500 is the IU Office for Women's Affairs, which also helped to develop the inaugural event.
Another feature of this year's women's race will be participation in "Walk a Mile in Her Shoes," an international effort to stop rape, sexual assault and gender violence. Many male IU students and notable campus personalities are expected to participate by walking a lap around the track at Armstrong Stadium in women's shoes to raise awareness about the causes, effects and remediation to sexualized violence.
"The marches have been held all over the United States to raise awareness and provide an opportunity for men and women to be part of the answer to ending the cycle of violence. It is a fun opportunity for men to educate the community about a very serious subject and to rally the community to take action," said Katrina C. Reynolds, IU assistant dean for women's affairs and director of student and staff advocacy. "The Office for Women's Affairs is honored to sponsor this activity as part of its 40th anniversary celebration of its mission of gender equity."
How the race is won
The Little 500 races are patterned after the Indianapolis 500, with up to 33 teams lining up for the start in 11 rows of three. Starting positions are determined by qualifying times, with the fastest team nabbing the pole.
As many as four riders can compete on a team. When one rider on a team is tired, he or she exchanges the bicycle with a teammate. The women's race is 25 miles -- 100 laps on a quarter-mile cinder track. The men's race is 50 miles -- 200 laps on the same track.
The competitors are amateurs and are full-time undergraduate students at IU Bloomington. Little 500 has been the subject of numerous national news reports and sports broadcasts and an Academy Award-winning film, "Breaking Away." In fact, the inaugural women's Little 500 was covered by The New York Times.
The Mini 500 eventually became a co-ed event and finally was replaced with the Little Fifty running race, which will take place Sunday, April 15, at the Robert C. Haugh Track and Field Complex. (Women compete at 5 p.m. and men at 7 p.m.) Teams of four runners each, in both men's and women's races, compete in a 50-lap relay. Any IU Bloomington undergraduate student who is a non-varsity runner may compete.
Other Little 500 events include the annual Team Pursuit competition on Saturday, April 14, at Armstrong Stadium, which is free and open to the public.
Sublime with Rome, featuring the Dirty Heads, will present Union Board's annual Little 500 concert after the women's race at 9:30 p.m. April 20 at IU Assembly Hall.
Tickets for Little 500 race events are $25 and are available through Ticketmaster.com. Ticketmaster locations include the IU Auditorium Box Office; visit www.iusf.org for more information. Tickets for the Sublime with Rome concert also are available through Ticketmaster and range from $22.50 to $44.50.