Runners clad in red, blue and gold stood behind the starting line at Wilson Plaza on the brisk fall morning.
“It’s good to see so many Bruins and Trojans hanging out together,” an announcer said three minutes before the race started. “Once again, who’s gonna win?”
With the annual rivalry football game between UCLA and USC less than one week away, about 830 UCLA and USC students, alumni, family and friends raced around the UCLA campus on Sunday morning to participate in the 5-kilometer race, “We Run the City.”
The event will be held for the next three years ““ alternating between USC and UCLA ““ to help fund year-round training for Southern California athletes competing in the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games, which the crosstown rivals will cohost at venues across Los Angeles, said David Bocarsly, Undergraduate Students Association Council president.
To win the competition and “run the city,” one school had to surpass the other in two out of three categories: donations, registered runners and fastest runners. UCLA swept USC in all three sections by a large margin.
The schools collectively raised more than $50,000, according to the event’s website.
“This is an incredible opportunity to unite as Bruins, to support athletes with disabilities and for UCLA and USC to engage and help show financial support,” Bocarsly said.
James White, a USC student, cheered on runners with the rest of his fellow USC spirit leaders as participants sprinted across the finish line.
He said he liked seeing fans from each school run alongside one another.
“Anytime we can use the rivalry in a peaceful way, that’s also exciting ““ it’s good,” White said.
Kelly Kloepping, assistant vice president of marketing and communications for Special Olympics Southern California, said the inherently competitive spirit of sports helped the typically opposed communities to collaborate.
“Sports bring people together,” Kloepping said.
The event was a collaborative effort between UCLA Recreation and Special Olympics Southern California.
Members of UCLA Recreation approached Bocarsly to collaborate with USC’s student government and publicize the cause using the school rivalry, Bocarsly said.
Anees Hasnain, USAC community service commissioner, said it was important to use the rivalry to create hype about the race.
But Hasnain added she was disappointed by the emphasis on school rivalry instead of a focus on the Special Olympics itself.
“The race is about (people with disabilities), not the college students,” she said. “The cause seems to have been left behind.”
Because the Special Olympics are a few years away, the rivalry week seemed easier to market the race with, said Devin Walpert, a second-year environmental sciences student who ran in the race.
Sponsor booths handed out merchandise to runners, and volunteers served pancakes to runners during the event.
“The support for the schools and the cause was, overall, overwhelming,” Kloepping said.
After the race, Bruins and Trojans sat on the grass together, sweating and chatting in the sun while members of the UCLA marching band played.