Runners ready for eighth annual Mountain Jug Run for Research

The eighth annual Mountain Jug Run for Research will go on this weekend as planned, while the future for this Western Carolina University to Appalachian State University relay is pending.

A WCU group will run 175 miles of roads from Cullowhee to Boone ― 152 miles on the Blue Ridge Parkway ― on Saturday, Oct. 10 and Sunday, Oct. 11, to raise money for research and student scholarships in sports medicine.

James Scifers, in white shirt, runs with students and faculty members from WCU’s Athletic Training Program on the Blue Ridge Parkway during a previous Mountain Jug Run for Research.

James Scifers, in white shirt, runs with students and faculty members from WCU’s Athletic Training Program on the Blue Ridge Parkway during a previous Mountain Jug Run for Research.

Taking part will be James Scifers, WCU Athletic Training Program professor and director, who originated the run in 2008 and is the principal organizer. He is leaving WCU at the end of the semester to become director of the School of Rehabilitation Sciences at Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

“I hope the event will continue as a legacy to the WCU Athletic Training Program’s commitment to the future of the profession,” Scifers said. “In the past, other faculty have participated in the event. I am hopeful that one of the current faculty or my replacement faculty member will carry on the tradition of this outstanding event.”

The relay raises funds for the National Athletic Trainers’ Association’s Research and Education Foundation, which awards research grants and academic scholarships in the field of sports medicine. The course is run as a continuous relay, with each of the runners completing five legs in 5-mile increments, and with two or three runners on the road at any given time.

The relay already has outlasted the WCU-ASU football rivalry for which it was named, known as “the Battle for the Old Mountain Jug.” The football rivalry ended when ASU left the Southern Conference in 2013. The relay always ended at whichever stadium was hosting the gridiron competition.

WCU students participating this weekend are graduate assistant Sarah McNamara; juniors Michael Rabey, Greylin Cleary, Luke Miller, Danny Rivas, Floyd Graber, Dalton Greer, Jason Shull and Jackson Roper; sophomores April Duke, Erin Grimsley, Brennen Dorsch and Jack “Bryson” Bradley; and freshman Adam Lytle.

In addition to providing a service-learning opportunity for athletic training students about injury prevention, proper nutrition and hydration, as well as environmental conditions in athletics, the relay demonstrates the value of philanthropy, Scifers said. Their goal this year is to raise more than $3,000. The total for past fundraising is some $25,000.

Over the years, 120 individuals total have participated in the relay. Training includes gathering in the predawn for 10 weeks, with a long run up to 13 miles on Sunday mornings.

“The record time for the relay is 27 hours, 8 minutes and 18 seconds,” Scifers said. “This year’s group of 16 is very fast and preliminary times should place the group finishing the event in about 25.5 hours.”

A member of the WCU faculty since 2003, Scifers has frequently volunteered time and athletic training skills at sporting events on campus, at local schools and in the community. In 2011, he helped write state legislation that established a mandatory concussion awareness education program for public schools to protect young athletes from head injuries. He was recognized as the North Carolina Athletic Trainers’ Association Educator of the Year for 2014.

Runners have been seeking pledges prior to the relay. Donations are encouraged, with checks made payable to NATA-REF and sent to Jill Manners, WCU Health and Human Sciences Building, Office 362, 4121 Little Savannah Road, Cullowhee, N.C. 28723. All donations to the foundation are tax-deductible.