Anyone in Manitowoc on Saturday morning looking for the game ball to Manitowoc Lincoln’s homecoming football game against visiting Sheboygan South will have trouble finding it until closer to the game’s 1 p.m. kickoff time.
That’s because it will be in the possession of the Ships’ cross country team as individual members make the 34-mile trek with it from Sheboygan South High School to Ron Rubick Municipal Field, starting at 5:30 a.m. and arriving shortly before kickoff.
“It certainly can, and is, a very intense workout if one looks at that aspect. … The ironic thing about that is they’re having fun doing it at the same time,” Lincoln cross country coach Len Nikolai said in an email. “We can get in a very valuable workout while adding to the homecoming festivities.”
For the past 25 years, if the Lincoln cross country team has not had a meet the Saturday of homecoming, they have come up with a run to correlate with the festivities. It is an event the team’s members look forward to, even being used in some cases as a recruiting tool.
“The team loves it. In fact, one year a girl joined (the team) just because of the homecoming run. In years that we have a meet, many runners ask me if we can do the homecoming run rather than go to that particular meet,” Nikolai said. “Occasionally an alumni who didn’t get to take part will run along with us.”
Runners will carry the ball in one-mile intervals with each individual running a minimum of eight miles and going all out four times per mile interval through Sheboygan and along County Road LS. The runners will then arrive at Manitowoc’s Culvers around 9:30 a.m. From there, the team will be escorted by a police car down Calumet Avenue, Marshall Street and South 9th Street to the JFK parking lot in time to participate in the homecoming parade. Shortly before kickoff, the team will complete the journey with a lap around the football field, delivering the game ball to the referees at the 50-yard line.
All the team’s members will run the first mile and then they will take turns, in groups of two to four, running one mile at a time, always handing off the ball to the next group who will be shuttled ahead and waiting at each mile.
By the time individuals arrive at Culver’s, each runner will have run a mile interval four times plus the warm-up first mile. Individuals will all run from Culver’s to JFK which is another three miles. Additionally, many of the runners will run up to 12 miles by running along with other groups, although that part will be optional.
“To my way of thinking, there’s no reason not to (do the run),” Nikolai said. “So yes, (team members) love doing it; it is by far our most ‘spirited’ workout.”