The 47th Annual Running of the Rodents was simply magical. We had the wizarding gowns and wands to prove it.
And a white rat named Luna, trained by students from the School of Nursing, took home the coveted garland of fruit-flavored candy as the champion of the Spalding Derby, the grand finale of Spalding’s card of rat races at the College Street Ballroom. This year’s theme was the Harry Potter-inspired “Ratly Hallows.”
“Last year, the School of Nursing’s rat tied, and I was pretty confident that we could come out in first this year,” smiling student trainer Amanda Jewell said as she held the winning rat. “I was glad that we were able to come out on top. … She got lots of conditioning and lots of treats.”
Jewell said she was a little concerned when Luna, named for the Harry Potter character Luna Lovegood, decided to turn around during the homestretch of the .024-furlong track and run in the opposite direction. But she righted herself and got going back in the right direction in plenty of time to reach the finish line first.
“I knew she would pull through,” Jewell said.
Spalding faculty, staff and students were decked out in Hogwarts-style robes and costumes to mark this year’s theme, and the ballroom was dimly lit, like the Hogswarts Great Hall. President Tori Murden McClure, who was dressed as Professor Minerva McGonagall, used retired commencement regalia to create robes for herself, the Presidential Leadership Team and Academic Council as well as members of the Student Government Association and Student Media Ambassadors.
“I don’t wear this every day,” McClure said with a laugh. “But this is a fun time in the spring. … Every year the students pick the theme, and they get to pick which character the president gets to play. Last year I was Maleficent. One year I was the Wizard of Oz.”
Held every spring around Kentucky Derby season, the Running of the Rodents is one of Spalding’s oldest, proudest traditions.
It was created in 1973 by Sister Julia Clare Fontaine, a Spalding biology professor, who overheard a senior student complain about the “rat race” of finals week. She immediately had an idea for a stress reliever before spring exams. The fun-filled Louisville tradition was coined as “The Most Exciting Two Seconds in Sports” by Trivial Pursuit®.
“The Sister realized that at about this point of the spring, students need a little pick-me-up before they make that last push to Commencement,” McClure said. “And she wanted something fun.”
Mission accomplished again. Thanks to everyone who took part in the 47th Running of the Rodents.
President Tori Murden McClure made Harry Potter-themed costumes for the Leadership Team and Executive in Residence Jerry Abramson for the 2019 Running of the Rodents. Photos by Meghan Holsclaw