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NIU students coordinate 5K race

Funds to benefit Graduate Sport Society, Adventure Works

DeKALB – Whitney Showalter didn’t mind waking up early Sunday morning to run her first 5K race.

Despite her lack of running experience, the Colorado native and Sycamore resident happily came out to Northern Illinois University’s Huskie Stadium at 7:30 a.m. to support her boyfriend’s graduate program and run for a local cause.

Showalter finished the race in about 28 minutes. She was pleased with the time, given she had only been training about a month.

“I’m not really a racer,” she said. “I was pretty proud of it.”

About 100 NIU students and community members ran the Huskie Stadium 5K race hosted by the university’s Graduate Sport Society, a club comprised of first- and second-year graduate students in the sports management program.

Runners began inside Huskie Stadium and ran along the streets of campus and looped back around to finish on the football field’s 30-yard line.

The fourth annual 5K was coordinated by the students as part of a final semester capstone project, said Steve Howell, NIU professor of sport management and the students’ advisor. The collaborative event was a culmination of everything the students had learned throughout the semester, he said.

“We just take an idea and put it into practice,” he said.

Kayla Rusterholtz, one of the race’s student directors said the group hoped to raise about $500, which would benefit the Graduate Sport Society and Adventure Works, a nonprofit organization that works with DeKalb County’s Family Service Agency to provide adventure therapy to at-risk youth.

Runners also received a $5 registration discount if they donated a pair of gently used shoes, benefiting the Share Your Soles organization for underprivileged children in Chicago.

Rusterholtz said the students chose to donate to Adventure Works because its outdoor and sports-oriented youth counseling aligns well with the mission of the sports management program.

Adventure Works director Lynette Spencer, who volunteered to pass out water and fruit at the race, said she was thrilled when Rusterholtz contacted her with the idea.

“[It was] totally out of the blue,” she said. “It was a very, very nice phone call to receive.”

Spencer described the donation to her three-year-old organization as “local dollars working for local kids.”

Another group of graduate students in the capstone class will host a golf outing Saturday at River Heights Golf Course in DeKalb. Groups of four can sign up for $300 by contacting Steve Howell at

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