They skedaddled, scurried and swooped toward the finish, but in the end, only one American cockroach — Avocado — was named the champion of the 37th Annual Great American Bug Race.
About 70 flying roaches competed in the race, which is the University’s longest-running tradition and the kickoff to Homecoming festivities. Any student, faculty, staff or spectator from the community could bring a bug or buy one for 50 cents. The bugs ran in heats, and if one made a daring escape, the owner/coach/manager had to retrieve it from its hiding place or buy a new bug.
Trainers fueled their bugs with sugar water, shook their jars and loudly cheered on the contestants before the master of ceremonies yelled “3, 2, 1, Go!” The roaches were required to run, walk or stagger — no flying or hopping permitted — across the finish line.
Freshman Clara Lucas and her bug, Avocado, claimed the grand prize of $100. In the student category, Leslie Strong came in first place with Julius Caesar. Lauren Stiteler finished third with her roach, Frank. In the non-student category, Noah Heyman’s bug, Ned, came in first place. Owen Hitchcock’s Icky Ackle finished second, and Kurt Cardona’s Lightning finished third.
Dr. Ray Waldner, a biology professor with a fish parasite named in his honor, started the roach race tradition. He is retiring at the end of the academic year.
The contest, sponsored by Orkin, raises money for the PBA Science Club. Homecoming festivities continue this weekend. View the full schedule here.
Photo 1: A determined little boy prepares to race his roach at the 37th Annual Great American Bug Race. The grand prize winner was a roach named Avocado belonging to student Clara Lucas.
Photo 2: Students Cindy Hugel and Mason Boudreaux race their roaches in the Rinker parking lot during the 37th Annual Great American Bug Race on Wednesday, November 6, 2019.