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Davidson College Cake Races – Plural

by | Aug 31, 2021

There were even more cakes upstairs in the Vance Athletic Center – more than 600 in all.


A remarkable thing, actually two remarkable things happened last Wednesday. I could easily say that the two remarkable things were the two Davidson College Cake Races. Instead, I’ll let the two races count as one. The other remarkable thing was the unsurpassed generosity of the Davidson community to step up and bake or buy hundreds of cakes for the students participating in those two races.

Signs directing donors to the drop-off.

It had been two years since campus and community had bonded over what was considered an “annual” event.

As News of Davidson described in a longer article several years ago, the Cake Race traces its origin to a track coach named Heath Whittle who was trying to spot talent in the new class of students. More recently, we shared a photo of one such undiscovered runner – Sterling Martin – who ran in the 2019 Cake Race, 40 years after he won the event.

An event steeped in traditions both old and new, it had only been an April Fool’s press release that suggested it’s demise. But that was before COVID. So, the Class of 2024 didn’t have a cake race last year. Instead, they were taking every precaution possible before the availability of the vaccine. Some came to campus, while others remained away and opted for virtual learning.

Thankfully this year was different. Your News of Davidson team was ecstatic to get an email asking us for help advertising the event and seeking community support for cakes. We did our part and posted the request for support on our website and social media. We saw other local organizations jumping in to help too.

What was different this year – beyond COVID protocols – was the fact that the college decided to hold two races. True to tradition, there would be a race for incoming first-year students – members of the Class of 2025. However, there would also be a second race, a race for the Class of 2024.

DCPC volunteers with water to go along with all those cakes.

The college advertised times for “Cake Drop Off” was between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., with the first race starting at 5:00 p.m. To make things easier for the bakers and buyers, there were signs directing them once they turned toward the Baker Sports Complex. Dozens of tables were arranged at the entrance of the Vance Athletic Center. Helium filled numeric balloons marked tables for cakes for the two different classes.

About 4:30 p.m., runners and spectators started to arrive. Some spectators were members of the community, while others were juniors and seniors coming out to cheer on their fellow students. As is often the case, most of the intercollegiate athletic teams are there to watch their teammates participate. One group of volunteers from Davidson College Presbyterian Church set up a water stand for the runners – given that it was roughly 90 degrees with almost matching humidity.

Sandy Helfgott, the Cake Race “Guardian” and Director of Physical Education and Recreation described the rules for the races and the details about how and where each would start and finish. Then he announced that there were more than 600 cakes on hand for the runners. That was a record-setting number of cakes, more than doubling the 279 cakes donated in 2019.

It typically comes as no surprise that scholar-athletes on the track and cross-country team tend to finish in the top spots of the race. That held true again this year. However, there were one of two noticeable other top finishers. How about the 6’3” sophomore transfer scholar-athlete on the Women’s Basketball team, Ellie Sutphin, who finished right behind the 4 cross-country runners who crossed the finish line together. And how about the “old guy?” Athletic Director Chris Clunie, Class of 2006 started a tradition of running the cake race with the first-year students when he returned as the AD in 2018. This year in order to hold up his bargain, he ran in both races – with only a couple minutes to rest between the two. He’s one dedicated Wildcat.

Athletic Director Chris Clunie ’06 after finishing both races.

Then there are the outfits. One runner wore a shark costume – a furry shark costume. However, we noticed that he wasn’t wearing all the full costume when he finished. There was a student wearing a large Panda head. Turns out the Panda head gave him limited peripheral vision, but it didn’t slow him down too much. Then there were the members of the Volleyball team in their tutus, and at least one other runner who did the same. And not to be outdone, the swimmers and divers opted to run in Speedos. . .again. And last but not least, quite a few students opted for the tradition of handmade “Cake Race” t-shirts.

The News of Davidson team sends a big shout out to all the new students back on campus, and a big “Thank You” to all who donated cakes to make this year’s special double Cake Race a success.

Check out our News of Davidson photo album from the races.



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