The rushing wind from the chariots, cheering from the audience, and adrenaline pumping through veins of every member helps to rebirth a well-loved Jesuit tradition every year. Chariots, from the Roman Circus Maximus, now race across the heated asphalt of a high school track field. In only seconds, the chariots pass the finish line and excitement breaks loose in the cheers of the winner’s supporters.
On November 6, during Ranger Day, 13 Jesuit homerooms will compete in a race to carry one of their big brothers across the finish line in their student made chariots. “This tradition has been taking place each year since the conception of Ranger Day,” says Mr. Murphy, freshman counselor and head of the senior big brothers program. It’s a tradition forging connections between the senior big brothers of each home room and the freshman. The 54 senior big brothers have been paired up with 13 homerooms, to help welcome the freshmen into Jesuit, invite them into one of their first group exercises through the chariot races, and offer guidance and assistance in any way they can their first high school year. Through these chariot races, big brothers help select runners for the chariot, decide the big brother that will be carried in the chariot, help decorate the chariot while making any needed modifications, and promote home room spirit. Finally, the big brothers help the homerooms to meet together weeks before the race even takes place to ensure everything is ready for the big race.
Starting this year, the seniors’ workload for the chariots has been incredibly lightened thanks to Robotic’s amazing new collaboration. The idea is to build a chariot that can last the homerooms for years, shifting the homeroom’s focus back to training and decorations. Unlike past years, where seniors took time out of their already busy schedule to build their chariot, the chariots will graduate to pre-made and better constructed models. Rather than the flimsy plywood and scrap cart parts, these chariots feature sturdy aluminum, PVC pipes, and heavy weight supporting wheels. Mr. Couvillon, head of Robotics team, envisions that the new “design of the chariot will be fixed. Each year they will be put into storage and broken down into many sub assemblies.” The aluminum frame will also ensure more safety into the races than from previous years meaning less crashes, falling apart, or loses from any other previous set backs. Mr. Murphy continued to emphasize in the wellbeing of each runner saying “the spirit will still be there, but the safety in the major concern.” With these problems taken care of, the seniors and freshmen can devote more of their time elsewhere, since “the new main focus is on homeroom spirit, unity, and tradition,” says Mr. Couvillon. Freshman can more extensively practice on their speed and get a feeling of what it’s like to cart their senior around while working together with the other freshmen that will be running with their chariot.
Though the chariots have evolved to an age of metal, the words from past gladiators still play their roles today. Michael Boyson ’16, an executive Big Brother from Mr. Wood’s homeroom, reinforces that while the chariots will be very different, he and his homeroom have to “take into consideration that [the chariot] has to be light.” Each second matters when chariots are standardized, a slow start potentially costing his homeroom the race. Boyson also selected the fastest freshman possible, “holding 40 yard trials to see who [his] runners will be.” This way the seniors can choose the fastest runners and help groom them to be ready for the races. Previous runner Reid Hatzmann ’18 advised this year’s freshman to start “working on [your chariot and training] earlier so that way you have time to make improvements.” Getting a head start also helps to prevent delaying work until the last second, increasing chances to win prizes such as best decorated or most spirited. While preparation is very important to be successful in the races, the tradition of the races gets everyone excited each year and connects the entire Jesuit community. Reid finds that preparing for the races is fun and “more of a homeroom event,” the homeroom bond filling the entire freshman class with spirit due to anticipation of the event.
Ages old, yet reborn anew with fresh enthusiasm, the Jesuit chariot races have ingrained themselves into the identity of Jesuit. As the school changing over time, the chariots have gained a new identity gilded in aluminum ensuring safety, promoting spirit and athleticism, and helping the busy hustle and bustle of senior lives. Despite these changes, the chariots continue to be a competitive event finishing a day filled with spirit and community.