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Davidson Cake Race a Sweet College Tradition Since 1930

At Davidson, college traditions range from the serious hilarity of freshman-hall flickerball (a game peculiar to Davidson) to the serious commitment evident in the annual Honor Code signing ceremony. One especially sweet Davidson tradition is the Freshman Cake Race, held the Wednesday of the first week of classes.

This year it’s at 5 p.m., Aug. 23, at the Wildcat statue in front of Baker Sports Complex.

Enjoy some photos from past races and a few factoids on this longstanding tradition in the slideshow below.

  • Student eats a cake on the field

    The Freshman Cake Race started as subterfuge – a somewhat sneaky way in 1930 for Coach Heath “Pete” Whittle ’30, a then newly minted alumnus, to scout the best runners for his Wildcat track team.

  • Student shows off her popcorn cake

    Faculty wives and other ladies of the town soon created a sister competition for first-chosen cake. A friendly competitive spirit still pervades efforts by bakers male and female today, whose cake decorations are increasingly creative and impressive.

  • A wildcat cake

    The race has been held every year since 1930, except the World War II years and 1972 (for reasons blowin’ in the wind of those a-changin’ times...)

  • A woman poses with her Wildcat cake

    Davidson’s first full-time women students arrived in 1973. Today, the men’s and women’s races have separate start times.

  • A group of students enjoy cake at the finish line

    The length of the race has stayed in the range of 1.3 to 1.7 miles, even though the route has changed numerous times over the years. Its current start and finish point is by the Wildcat statue in front of Baker Sports Complex.

  • A male student shows the cake he won

    Currently, cakes are the sole prizes, but when the tradition first began, additional items such as haircuts and picture shows were given out to winners by local organizations.

  • Sterling MArtin runs on the track (black and white archive photo)

    The race launched the career of Sterling Martin ’63, who went on to make the All-Southern Conference cross country team, and became the track coach at Davidson when Whittle retired in 1970.

  • A group of women pose with cakes on the track

    At the finish line in 2014, the first seven women elected to cross the finish line together – setting a new Cake Race record for tied first place winners. The competition remains friendly and fun year after year.

  • Alumni racing in the cake race at reunion

    The Freshman Cake Race has spawned another tradition: now an Alumni Cake Race on reunion weekend pits nostalgia against stamina, as doggedly maturing alumni compete to finish the course... for cupcakes.

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