BY CONNOR WALTERS
PHOTO BY LISA WORTHY
How fast can a team complete 100,000 meters? How much money can they raise in the process for pediatric brain cancer research? The annual Connor’s Erg Challenge in February brought a dozen teams together—virtually—in a contest held in memory of Robert “Connor” Dawes, a Wisconsin-born, Australia-raised rower who died in 2013 at 18 years old.
“Usually our training is for furthering our own interests, trying to get better as a team—but this combines that with a philanthropic aspect so it’s really nice,” University of Wisconsin senior Even Miller told WMTV. The university is where Dawes had hoped to attend for rowing, and the Badgers have been participants in the competition since it began in 2016.
The erg challenge simply requires teams to complete 100,000 meters on the erg, using whatever switches and relays they choose. It initially began as a virtual race between the University of Wisconsin, where Dawes’ parents had gone to college, and Stanford University. The coaches of the programs connected with Dawes’s parents in the months after his passing, and the idea for the erg race was born.
With 12 participating programs between the United States and Australia, this year’s contest was the largest in its five years of existence. Domestic competitors included the founding schools, plus Colgate, Duke, Princeton, Syracuse, Virginia, Marist, and MIT. Together, they raised more than $72,000.
“Each rower ended up doing at least 11 500s and a few 250s. The coaches, coxswains, our faculty liaison, and one of the assistant athletic directors jumped on to contribute meters to the challenge. It was a grueling workout, but at least it was fun,” Colgate head coach Khaled Sanad said.
Wisconsin proudly earned the title of top fundraiser, collecting more than $10,000 toward the cause. However, Marist was fastest to complete the virtual race, becoming the first team to eclipse the five-hour mark, finishing in four hours and 57 minutes.
Since 2013, the Robert Connor Dawes Foundation has raised more than $6.4 million to support research that seeks a cure for childhood brain cancer, the most fatal of all pediatric cancers.