Rain or clear, runners were ready and in gear. Thousands roamed on UW-Milwaukee’s campus warming up and preparing for the Alumni Association’s 13th Annual Panther Prowl. Rain was expected, but that did not intimidate participants to be in attendance for the tradition.
The 2017 Panther Prowl successfully took place Oct. 7 on and around UW-Milwaukee’s campus. About 1,200 participants took part in the 5k run/walk according to UW-Milwaukee Alumni Association’s list of results, which is nearly a 400 person decrease from last year.
Showers were expected through the entire morning and into Saturday evening but just missed the time of the run. This could explain the decrease in this year’s participation, though many still believe the achieved numbers are significant.
“This has always been one of the biggest events on campus involving both students and community members,” said alumna and former UW-Milwaukee cheerleader Kelly Schmitz. “Every year they find new things to add and make it more appealing.”
Schmitz started doing the run after becoming a rookie on the cheerleading team during her freshman year in 2009 . All team sports attend the event to volunteer and cheer on participants. Her sister Kate Schmitz joined the tradition shortly after Kelly, once she entered college and also joined the cheerleading team.
The Alumni Association donates all proceeds to scholarships for UWM students, including scholarships for the athletics programs. Each year, the athletics teams come unified in their new gear for the season and volunteer for the 5k. This year, the track team spread throughout the route to cheer on runners and the men’s basketball team encouraged runners at the finish line.
The new men’s basketball coach Pat Baldwin was the emcee for this year’s run. In addition to his welcoming and starting countdown, he welcomed in participants to the finish line through the entire event.
“It’s cool to see all the teams together; see the new and old faces, and get to know other students in athletics,” said men’s basketball player Jeremiah Bell. “Also, everyone running is supporting just by doing that so the least we can do is support them.”
Many post-race giveaways and attractions were set up for all to enjoy near the start/finish line. A band began setup as stragglers came in at the end, and volunteers lined up awards. Two food trucks parked on Humboldt giving away free small plates and other businesses had tents set up in front of the library with giveaways and games.
In addition to Panther Prowl, UW-Milwaukee recently brought back the old tradition of Homecoming during the same weekend as the 5krun/walk. Panther Prowl is now used as a stepping stone into Homecoming night with their post-race activities, as the club football team hosts a home game in celebration and students carry on into the night.
The campus’s tradition of homecoming dissipated after the football team program was discontinued in 1974. Though it lasted a few years longer, it was not the same without the game. Rumors of another football program starting have lingered over the last five years, but these plans have not been confirmed.
“You just correlate homecoming and football; it’s not the same without it,” said UWM student majoring in Advertising and Panther Prowl participant Scott Douglas. “I think it would change the entire environment of student involvement and school spirit to bring back a football team.”
Slowly but surely Panther Prowl has been incorporated into UWM’s Homecoming plans, marketing the run and encouraging students and families to join the post-race events. UWM Family Day also falls this same weekend.
Winners of this year’s race came in at an about average 5k time for regular long-distance runners. First place paced at 5:09 min/mile increasing by just seconds until fourth place. The first female runner did not come in until 28th place overall, averaging 6:10 min/mile.
Earlier in the morning included the Toddler & Kids’ Dash, with the Toddler Dash for children ages five and under and the Kids’ Dash for those ages six through 12. All participants received a t-shirt, a race bib, and a finisher’s medal.
The question remains as to how the Alumni Association will outdo themselves for next year, especially continuing to add in the Homecoming activities. The tradition keeps attendees coming back, but new aspects bring new attendees.
The 14th annual Panther Prowl is already set for next year on Saturday Oct. 8, 2017.