(BLOOMINGTON) - The race for 2012 Little 500 victories will begin Saturday, March 24, with qualifications and competition for pole position at Bill Armstrong Stadium on the Indiana University Bloomington campus.
This will be the 25th running of the Women's Little 500, which was held for the first time in 1988, a year after Kappa Alpha Theta sorority attempted to qualify for the men's race. Since then, the women's race has grown in popularity and is expected to have a full field of 33 teams this year.
The women's Little 500 will be held "under the lights" on April 20, beginning at 7 p.m. The 62nd men's Little 500 will take place the next day, April 21, beginning at 2 p.m.
Qualifications for both races will take place at Bill Armstrong Stadium, off Fee Lane, just north of its intersection with 17th Street. Admission is free for qualifications, which will be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., rain or shine. Parking is available adjacent to the Gladstein Fieldhouse and IU Assembly Hall.
In addition to the action on the track, student organizers also are bringing back "Little Taste," a fund-raising activity for Hoosier Hills Food Bank. Those who come for the on-track action will be able to buy food items from Bloomington-area restaurants and food vendors, with net proceeds going to the food bank.
Independent Bloomington-area restaurants will serve a variety of foods, including pasta, tacos and desserts, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. People will buy tickets valued at $1 that can be redeemed for menu items sold at different prices.
"We're excited to bring the Little Taste to qualifications this year -- not only because it will add to the atmosphere at the track, but more importantly because of the way it supports our community," said Dana Cummings, IU Student Foundation director of development and student programs.
"The proceeds from this year's event will be donated to Hoosier Hills Food Bank, a great local nonprofit organization that IUSF is proud to partner with for this second annual Little Taste. Through the class campaigns program, IUSF has supported nearly a dozen Bloomington charities since the program's inception five years ago. It's critical that our students understand the importance of philanthropy, and programs like the Little Taste are the perfect way to accomplish that mission."
The Little 500 is the nation's largest collegiate intramural cycling event and was featured in the Academy Award-winning film "Breaking Away" more than 30 years ago. Participants train all year to compete.
Little 500 qualifications generate their own excitement as they determine the 33 teams that will compete in the men's and women's races. Teams must complete four laps around the cinder track, each rider doing one lap. Smooth bike exchanges and quick single-lap speeds are essential for a good qualification time.
"The weather has been very cooperative this winter and spring, which has had a positive effect on the track conditions and teams' training regimens," said Jordan Bailey, IUSF assistant director. "The unseasonably warm temperatures this winter made it easier for more teams to ride outside as they trained, which translates into higher fitness when they start riding on the track.
"Additionally, the unseasonably high temperatures helped prevent the track from freezing and thawing, thereby keeping the track in a good condition," Bailey added. "Since the track has been opened, we have seen a natural amount of rain, which has also helped the track stay packed, but not overly saturated.
"Both the men and women's races have balanced fields, so look for several teams to be gunning for the pole positions on March 24th."
Other Little 500-related events include the increasingly popular running relay race, the Little Fifty, on April 15 at the Robert C. Haugh Track & Field Complex, as well as individual time trials on March 28, the Miss-N-Out competition on March 31 and the Team Pursuit competition on April 14, which will take place at Armstrong Stadium.
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