Bulldog Challenge - A challenge with a cause
The Bulldog Challenge has become a springtime tradition in Charleston, and more importantly, at The Citadel, where this muddy and rigorous endurance race is held. The annual event is hosted by the college Semper Fidelis Society, which is comprised of cadets in the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) unit and active duty members of the Marine Enlisted Commissioning Education Program (MECEP).
Saturday, March 12, 2011, marks the 15th consecutive year for the popular team competition. The race is designed to recreate some of the experiences that a Marine might encounter under enemy fire on the battlefield. Spread over six miles, the course consists of physical challenge stations, including pull ups, fireman’s carry, and a stadium run. Depending on the physical fitness of team members, the course takes between one and two hours to complete.
Last year participation hit an all-time high, attracting more than 500 racers and 300 spectators. This year participants will include college students from across the country, active duty military and law enforcement personnel, Citadel cadets, health professionals, fitness enthusiasts and athletes from the surrounding area. Miss South Carolina 2008 Anna Perry will also take part.
Jill Vermillion, a former Marine who will compete for the first time this year, hopes to inspire cancer survivors. Vermillion was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007. The cancer returned in 2008 but she is in recovery now. What began as a personal challenge to complete the Bulldog Challenge then evolved into her non-profit called “A Thriving Chance,” which is also the name of her team. Next year she wants to field a team made up of cancer survivors.
“If I could inspire one survivor to push themselves beyond what they imagined they were capable of and if I can just manage to complete the challenge in a reasonable amount of time, then I will consider that a monumental success,” she said.
Staff Sgt. Dan Siemieniec, this year’s event director and an active-duty undergraduate student at the college, said that the event is physically challenging but anyone can participate.
“We do this because it reminds us of what Marines are going through in places like Afghanistan and Iraq,” Siemieniec said. “More importantly, we do this to honor those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice by building scholarships and leadership funds in their names- supporting the next wave of military leaders who will fight for our freedom.”
Previous events have raised nearly $50,000 for scholarships. Proceeds from this year’s event will go to the Warren A. Frank Memorial Leadership Fund, in honor of the fallen Marine Captain and Citadel Class of 2004 graduate. Frank was killed in Iraq in November 2008 while delivering humanitarian aid. He is one of 15 Citadel graduates to have died in the line of duty since the war began.
This year’s sponsors include Extreme Outfitters, Hammer Nutrition, and USAA.