Kuviasungnerk/Kangeiko participation surged over 150 percent compared to last year’s first day as 665 U of C students rolled out of bed yesterday, hoping to bring home the prize for their house. But Dodd-Mead, the perennial winner of the crack-of-dawn calisthenics event, is ready to hold onto their 14-year title.
“The Final Countdown” blasted through the halls of the dorm at 5:30 in the morning, rousing 42 Dodd-Mead residents half an hour before they needed to be at Henry Crown Field House to defend their reign as the house with the most participants.
Fourteen Dodd-Mead residents kept sleeping, or at least pretended not to hear the wake-up calls. Resident Head Timothy McGovern joked they might get retribution down the line—a 5:30 a.m. phone call six years from now.
McGovern and his wife, Thelma Tennant, are attending their 11th Kuvia, and he says competition has grown more intense as the participation rate rose over the years. “Back in the day you could win with 20 percent of the house,” he said.
This year, they’re hoping to win with their current participation rate of 76 percent.
At the end of the five-day event, cash prizes will be given to the large (more than 80 people) and small (80 or fewer) houses with the highest participation rate, and anybody who completes all five days receives a Kuvia t-shirt. But for Dodd-Mead, it’s about upholding a reputation.
First-years learned of the winter tradition the day they set foot in their house.
“You can’t avoid it if you try…It’s gone to epic proportions of advertisement,” said Jamie Mermelstein, a first-year in the house.
Posters about Kangeiko plaster the walls of the lounge and bathrooms: “Mr. Gorbachev, raise up this sun,” “If you don’t do it, the terrorists win,” “If it’s not -40 out, I don’t want to hear any complaining.”
One, Dodd-Mead residents assert, isn’t false advertising. “On Friday morning, George will strip.”
George Ziegler is a fourth-year planning to complete a fourth year of Kuvia, and for that, he has the special privilege of stripping down during the Sun Salutations performed at the Point on Friday, the last day of Kuvia.
After each one of the ten salutations, a piece of clothing must come off. A pair of socks counts as one. “You have a week to plan it,” said Ziegler.
Alex Dulchinos, a fourth-year in Dodd-Mead who has done Kuvia every year, intends to wear the past three years’ Kangeiko shirts and “strip the layers of time,” he said.
“I’m a masochist…It’s something I’ve been doing for so long that I don’t want to stop,” said Dulchinos.
Resident Assistant Emily Kemper said, “People do it. They get progressively less happy about it [as the week goes on].”
The surge of Kuvia participants is likely to decrease as the week continues, although whether or not this year’s crop of early birds is hardier than last year’s is hard to say.
“The first day is a pretty big crowd. As people realize what’s going to happen, it dwindles down,” said Kemper.
Yet, McGovern said, only one or two people will drop over the course of the week each year from Dodd-Mead.