University of Mary Hardin-Baylor

ARCHIVE: Students and Alumni Carry Game Ball from Independence

September 19, 2013
Esther Gibbs and Rylee Heckathorne begin the first leg of the Game Ball Run
Esther Gibbs and Rylee Heckathorne begin the first leg of the Game Ball Run

Independence, Texas – On Wednesday, September 18, two female students took the first steps of a journey that will cover 105 miles and last more than 24 hours. More than 100 students, staff, and alumni are taking part in the Game Ball Run, in which they are carrying a ball for the first football game in Crusader Stadium all the way from Independence, TX, where UMHB was chartered in 1845, to its current home in Belton.

The event was conceived as a way to build excitement for the new stadium while celebrating the rich history that lead to its opening.

“Our hope is that our students will realize the incredible heritage we have and all who have run before us who have paved the way for us to have Crusader Stadium and all these new facilities.” Vice President for Byron Weathersbee said.

The Run began at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday in Independence, and it is set to end at 10 p.m. this evening 105 miles away in Crusader Stadium. Throughout the day vans will be running from the Mabee Student Center to the run group. Runners will constantly be swapping out to give each participant a chance to touch the game ball.

“The great thing about this run is that anyone can be a part of it. If you want to run 100 yards to 5 miles you can be a part of it.” Assistant Director of Campus Activities Jeff Sutton said. “So all of us will cover a portion of the pavement in order to make up the overall goal.”

Planning for the run has been a challenge. Organizers logged hundreds of miles, testing routes by car. Their focus has been ensuring the safety of runners every step of the way.

“The only surprise have been the number of roads that we could take,” Sutton said. “The views along this run are some of the prettiest we have seen.”

Once the ball arrives at the stadium, student body president Collin Davies will run the final leg, delivering it to Dr. O’Rear at the 50 yard line. The final handoff will serve as the climax of the Crusader Stadium Student Kick Off, an event that invites university students to dance, pick up a free t-shirt, and sample some of the stadium’s very own Purple Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream.

“I think the most exciting part is just the variety of people who are taking part in such an historic event.” Sutton said. “Everyone is thrilled to carry the actual game ball, and it is going to be something that students will talk about for a long time.”

Weathersbee says that it is only fitting that the first two runners were female students.

“The significance of that is paying tribute to our beginnings as the old Baylor Female College,” Weathersbee said. “From there, it’s a long and winding road from Independence to Belton, and there’s no easy path to get there. It’s very symbolic of where we’ve been and where we are going as a university.”

The grand opening and dedication of Crusader Stadium will be held on the evening of the team’s first home game, September 21, when the Crusaders, ranked #4 by, play #5 Wesley College.  Pregame ceremonies will begin at 5:30, with kickoff taking place at 6:00 p.m.  The evening will culminate in a fireworks display following the game.  A limited number of tickets are still available – for more information, call 254-295-4455 or go online to