STEUBENVILLE, Ohio – From across the Franciscan University of Steubenville campus the cross country team’s cheer of “Ave Maria” was heard. It is the way they start every race.
The fog hung low upon the hill as hundreds of people made their way to the soccer field where the 4th annual Kelly Roggensack Memorial 5K run/3K walk began.
This was the first of three major sporting events that captivated spectators Homecoming Weekend.
The morning’s competition was held in honor of Kelly Roggensack, who was on the cross country team, but died in a car accident in 2008.
“This race means a lot to all of us,” said Leann Roggensack, Kelly’s younger sister. “It’s a really special event. And really just a blessing to have so many people come out to support it.”
“This is a tribute to Kelly’s life. She always wanted to make a difference and so we want to do the same,” said Don Bennette, assistant coach for the cross country team and organizer of the event.
The first mom to cross the finish line was Cheryl Gilman. Her daughter is a freshman this year and friends with Leann Roggensack, Kelly’s younger sister.
“It’s the most beautiful place I’ve been to and this is such a great memorial,” said Gilman.
Carolyn Hogan ran the race with her son, Tommy, a member of Franciscan’s cross country team. Although they did not stay together the whole time, she said it was special to run with him. Mrs. Hogan’s daughter Anna is a senior and on the cross country team as well.
“It was really so great to run here,” said Mrs. Hogan. “The athletes here run with a purpose since they run for Christ.”
At 1 p.m. the Homecoming crowd moved to the rugby pitch to watch rugby alumni take on the current team. Ginny Schlater stood on the sidelines with her four young children. “Go Daddy!” they yelled. It was their first chance to see their dad play.
“I think it’s awesome,” said Schlater about the opportunity for alumni to get back on the field. “I know he loves it. It’s a little scary but great for the kids to see him since they’ve only ever seen pictures.”
Both Schlater and her husband Matt graduated in 2004. “The rugby team has gotten soft,” Matt quipped with a big grin on his face. “It feels so good to be back out here. God is so good to bring this community together.”
As an alumnus, Matt Schlater offered a word of advice to the current ruggers, “These students shouldn’t take this for granted.”
The competition was stiff, but in the end the students beat the alumni, 20-12. Head coach Mark Hanrahan said he knew it would be a good game. He told the team to be prepared for the hardest game they have played this season. The young ruggers took the game very seriously even though they were playing against their own guys, noted Hanrahan.
“It’s awesome. These guys are legends,” said Hanrahan. “They told me this morning at breakfast that if it wasn’t for rugby they wouldn’t have come to school here or stayed here. This sport creates a bond and this game really shows how deep those bonds are. It’s such an amazing sport.”
Cheers began to sound from the Finnegan Fieldhouse at 2 p.m. as the women’s volleyball team took on La Roche College. The Lady Barons defeated the Redhawks 3-0 (25-9, 25-13, 25-13).
“It was a great atmosphere,” said head coach Kelly Herrmann. “It was great to play on campus. We appreciate La Roche coming to play. It was nice to see everyone get a chance to play with their families here.”
The father of junior middle hitter Anna Cain echoed Coach Herrmann’s sentiments. Hailing from Williamsburg, Iowa, Terry Cain only gets to see his daughter play once a year during Homecoming Weekend, and it’s an experience he cherishes.
“The girls are all amazing. Anna has had a fantastic experience playing here,” said Mr. Cain as he filmed the match. His hope is that one day the games will stream live on the web, but in the mean time he had his game film.
“I’ll take this home and watch it over and over,” he said. “We read up on every crumb of information that’s put online after the game and follow the conference standings.”
Like Mr. Cain, Meg Kay’s family does not get to see volleyball matches often either. Her father, Scott Kay, said they normally make about one or two a season. Homecoming Weekend, however, is special for the Kay family. They make it a family reunion.
“Five of the kids came out for this and we’ve got tons of grandkids with us too. We go golfing and make it like a reunion,” said Mr. Kay.