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Tuesday, April 16
The Indiana Daily Student

sports little 500

A short ride through the history of the Little 500

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IU’s Little 500 is one of the premier events the campus has to offer, with “The World’s Greatest College Weekend” being held annually on the third week of April. 

The Little 500 attracts more than 25,000 people to Bloomington annually and is known as the largest bicycle race in the country. But before the race gained this popularity and reputation, it was originally an event to honor a loved one. 

The first race was held in 1951, but the story of the Little 500 started in 1919 when Howard Wilcox won the famous Indianapolis 500. A year later, his son Howard “Howdy” Wilcox Jr. was born. Wilcox Sr. died years later in a racing accident, leaving Howdy as an orphan as his mother also passed away two years before. Years later, Wilcox Jr. would see something that gave him an idea that would bring the school closer together and honor his father. 

In 1950, Wilcox Jr. was strolling around campus and saw a group of students who were racing with bicycles. This moment sparked the idea of a university cycling race, and as the director of the IU Foundation, he decided to take this idea to the IU Student Foundation. 

Wilcox Jr.’s pitch was that this race could be used to raise scholarship money for working students. Wilcox Jr. also saw this as an opportunity to grow consistent support for the foundation. He decided to name it the Little 500, emulating the Indianapolis 500 which his father won.  

The South Hall Buccaneers won the first-ever Little 500 on May 12, 1951, with Sigma Alpha Epsilon finishing second and Phi Gamma Delta in third. The race originally consisted of only male students, but over time the interest amongst women began to increase. 

This growing interest led to Kappa Alpha Theta, a sorority on campus, finishing in 34th place in the 1987 qualification trials. It did not make the final roster as only 33 teams make it to the race, but this achievement caught the eye of Phyllis Klotman, who was the dean of women’s affairs at the time. 

Klotman proposed the idea of a separate race for women and it was quickly established. The first Women’s Little 500 was held in 1988 with Willkie Sprint finishing in first and Kappa Alpha Theta right behind them in second. 

Kappa Alpha Theta leads the all time win column for the women’s race, totalling eight victories in its long history. Meanwhile, Cutters is the reigning winner of the men’s race, and has a record 15 wins since its debut in 1984. The team name was inspired by the movie “Breaking Away,, which features a group of teenagers who participated in the Little 500 and named themselves the Cutters. 

The 2024 Little 500 features the 36th women’s edition of the race and the 73rd edition of the men’s race. The women’s race will be at 4 p.m. on April 19 while the men’s race will be at 2 p.m. on April 20. Both races will take place at Bill Armstrong Stadium. 

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