Southern Utah University claimed the official title of 2015-2016 National Outdoor Champions. The Outdoor Nation On Campus Challenge declared SUU as this year’s winner, awarding SUU with the coveted title of The Most Outdoorsy School in the nation.
The On Campus Challenge began on September 6 and after six weeks of fierce competition against 56 schools such as Ohio State University, Arizona State University, and University of San Diego, SUU won by a landslide with 225,860 points; over 14,000 points ahead of its nearest competitor. According to Outdoor Nation, SUU had 20,678 total entries and over 2500 participants.
Multiple departments at SUU worked together to offer ways for students, faculty, staff and community members to enter the challenge, get outside, share with their friends and earn prizes. Austin Dennis, SUU’s student representative for Outdoor Nation, scheduled over 25 free outdoor trips during the challenge, and organized daily campus events. Everyone was encouraged to attend Hammock Tuesdays, Yoga Thursdays and daily walks with President Wyatt and other university administrators.
Dennis is grateful for President Wyatt’s support and said Wyatt would often stop by the SUU Outdoor Rental Shop offering words of encouragement. “The President’s enthusiasm for this challenge kept us motivated, and it was really exciting to see different departments and faculty members rally together,” said Dennis.
As a culmination to the challenge, President Wyatt hosted a Backyard Bash held on Thursday, October 15. The community-wide bash had live music, free food, games and outdoor activities drawing hundreds of individuals. SUU earned over 21,000 points in one day securing the school’s victory.
Wyatt instantly wanted to get involved when he heard about the Outdoor Nation Challenge and is thrilled that SUU took the title. “The students who led this effort brought together two wonderful things about SUU; first the exceptional people who live and study here and second the extraordinary landscape that surrounds our campus. It’s an unbeatable combination,” said Wyatt.
“We have always known that SUU is located in an incredible area but the challenge has been getting the rest of the world to know that,” said Dennis. “Winning the title of National Outdoor Champions puts SUU and Cedar City on the map.”
During the six-week competition, participants created accounts and posted photos of their outdoor activities. Activities include bike riding, camping, hiking, hunting, swimming, hammocking, rock climbing, stargazing; anything that helped people recreate outdoors. Individuals were allowed to post up to five times a day receiving points for each entry. Outdoor Nation tracked each entry using a scoring system to determine the winners.
One family that demonstrated the competitive spirit is the Bryan family. Derek Bryan, SUU alumnus, and his wife Maren, along with their three eldest boys, signed up for the challenge and logged over 9000 points as a family. “We had a great time with this challenge,” said Derek. “It brought us closer as a family and the boys would often anticipate and plan out our activities each day. I think it’s important for people to get outside. There's so much value to recreation and play. I hope that by winning this contest we can also gain more recognition and advocacy for the outdoor programs offered at SUU. This competition served as a platform for us to showcase where we live and what we do, and I’m really proud to call SUU and Cedar City home.”