The first time Evan Ostrowski stepped foot on campus, he was immersed in one of Case Western Reserve University’s richest traditions—the Hudson Relays.
As a high school senior, Ostrowski, now a chemical engineering student and member of the Class of 2017, paid his visit to CWRU on the day the relays were run. Watching it that first time, he knew he wanted to be part of the tradition.
The 26-mile relay race, which signifies Western Reserve University’s 26-mile move from Hudson to Cleveland in 1882, pits each undergraduate class, a team of graduate students and a team of alumni against one another. Teams of 42 to 50 runners complete five laps around what is approximately a 5-mile loop of campus.
If an undergraduate team finishes in first place each of its four years on campus, the provost provides them with some kind of celebratory event involving champagne and steak—in the most recent year the entire winning class had a champagne toast and steak “bites.” Only three classes have accomplished this feat in the relays’ 106-year history.
With two wins recorded, Ostrowski’s class could become the fourth. As coordinator of the team, their chances rest in his hands.
Thus far, his leadership has proved to be successful. He’s accepted the challenge of coordinating his class’s team, from finding students willing to participate right down to which half-mile leg each of them will run, each of his years as a member of the Class Officer Collective.
“All of the legs are about a half-mile, but they’re all different,” he said. “One of the legs goes up the elephant stairs, so you want to make sure you [pick] who’s going to be the best for that.”
Due to stress fractures in both knees and shins he suffered in middle school track and field, Ostrowski is no longer a runner except for exercise and on Hudson Relay day. For each class, the vice president completes the penultimate leg and the class president finishes the race. Meaning Ostrowski will have one of the last chances to uphold his team’s leg—or make up the distance if they’re lagging behind.
Not only will Ostrowski organize his team, but this year he also is chairman of the event, meaning he’s charged with making sure everything runs smoothly—from ensuring police officers will be manned at busy intersections to finding volunteers for each of the event’s activities.
“I just love seeing the rivalry and the spirit of it,” Ostrowski said. “So it’s really great to see people come together and get competitive as a class.”
The energy surrounding the event will pick up today (April 22) from 12:30 to 2 p.m. when the Hudson Relays pep rally kicks off on Kelvin Smith Oval, with student performances, stilt walkers, food from Jolly Scholar and more.
This evening, each of the runners will be treated to a carb-filled spaghetti dinner to fuel them up for tomorrow’s big race.
After breakfast, which is offered to all of the runners, the teams will duke it out to see if the Class of 2017 can win for a third-straight year, or if another team will cause an upset.
“We have a lot of people coming back. I’ve spent a lot of time scheduling people’s placement. I’ve got my strategies, so I’m very excited,” Ostrowski said. “I’m confident. We’ve had pretty hefty leads the past few years.”
Last year, the Class of 2017 finished with a time of 1:51:25, followed by the Class of 2016, which finished at 1:58:55.
Make sure you grab your seat at the finish line to see if the Class of 2017 can do it again—but before you do, read Ostrowski’s answers to this week’s five questions.
1. What is your proudest accomplishment?
My involvement as a chapter president here at CWRU. I was president of my fraternity, Zeta Beta Tau, for the 2015 calendar year. As a president, I was really able to make a difference. It was a turning point for my organization. We were able to really legitimize ourselves. We revised a lot of by-laws. We re-did our new member education. I think we made a lot of great relationships with the Greek Life Office and the Zeta Beta Tau headquarters. Our GPA has gone up—I think we’re fourth on campus with a 3.4. I’m very proud of being able to restructure that and be able to put us on a path toward sustainability and for positive growth for our brothers.
This week, I actually got “Most Outstanding Chapter President” for the last year out of all the fraternities, so that was pretty exciting too.
2. If you could do anything you wanted for a day, what would you do?
I’ve been trying to go paddleboarding for a long time now, so I think I would set up on a beach somewhere warm and try that out for the day.
3. Who would you want to play you in a movie of your life?
I would go with Nicholas Hoult. I see him as a well-rounded actor who exhibits a lot of strength, intellect and sophistication in his roles that I really admire.
4. If you could go back in time to tell your childhood self something, what would you say?
I would reassure myself that hard work does pay off. I have always been pretty self-motivated, but hearing that from myself would have helped drive me.
5. What’s your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?
It’s the opportunities you get at an academic powerhouse but still small school. You get to have smaller classes, you get to be involved in research positions and grow in ways I think a smaller school allows you to do. I know I’ve done really well here and really grown academically.
Being at a smaller school, I like being able to walk around campus and know a lot of the people I see. We always have a lot of meaningful connections with people here. At a bigger school, I don’t know if I would have been able to branch out as much, and I am so glad that I did.