“If you had to hand over your cash, your cards and your personal phone, could you travel across Europe in seven days – using Red Bull as your only currency?”
Three students from Walla Walla University just did. After being selected to compete in the Red Bull Can You Make It? adventure race, Sheldon Maxwell, Tyler MacPhee and Chad Torkelsen packed their bags on April 10 for the adventure of a lifetime as Team Seymour.
Here’s how it worked: 165 student teams from over 50 countries were scattered around various starting points in Europe to begin a seven-day trip. Each team received 24 cans of Red Bull energy drink. Their objective? To spend the seven days making their way to Paris, France by trading Red Bull cans for train tickets, car rides, food and places to spend the night. Teams visited checkpoints in various European cities along the way. They posted updates, pictures and videos on their team pages using complimentary Samsung smartphones with Vodafone unlimited data plans. Teams were scored based on three criteria: Checkpoint Points, Adventure Points and Social Points.
By reaching the checkpoints and by completing exciting challenges along the way, teams racked up points. But a third of teams point totals came from social media engagement.
While it may seem that the team from tiny Walla Walla, Washington would be at a disadvantage for social media points, this proved not to be the case. Walla Walla is a much smaller school than some of the state universities and international schools competing, but the Walla Walla community was overwhelmingly supportive.
“When we set out we were worried we wouldn't be able to even keep in the top half of teams in the social category and boy could we ever have been more wrong,” said team member Tyler MacPhee in a Facebook post. “I couldn't have asked to be part of a better more supporting community.”
Walla Walla University is in no way affiliated with Red Bull, of course, and the university hesitated to call attention to the event because of traditional Adventist prohibitions on caffeinated beverages.
However, Walla Walla is a close-knit campus community that supports its students and their endeavors. WWU students spent the week of the competition sharing, liking and creating posts with the tags #TeamSeymour and #RedBullCanYouMakeIt16. These posts received likes and shares by family, friends and perfect strangers around the world. Team Seymour meant Team WWU.
Red Bull shared daily Can You Make It? episodes online about the competition, keeping viewers up to date on team progress throughout the week. Team Seymour was featured several times in these episodes for their surprisingly enthusiastic social media support from the WWU community.
In one episode Team Seymour received recognition for its event page having been shared more than any other team in the competition. Supporters of the WWU students stayed up late into the last night of the competition to give Team Seymour a final social media push.
“After 7 days of no internet we are blown away with the amount of support we've received! We had a blast but It was you guys who kept our spirits high throughout the competition whenever things got rough,” said Team Seymour in a team Facebook post. “We are unbelievably blessed to be a part of this incredible community and we want you guys to know that every single like and share we received was hugely appreciated.”
On their team page, they wrote, “Our trio, Team Seymour, have known each other through elementary school, high school and now university. Although each of us are pursuing different careers, we have the common desire to travel the world and experience as many adventures as possible.”
Team Seymour received over 300,000 social points, earning them 5th place (out of 165) in the competition overall and 1st place in social points among teams from America. In the last week they traveled to three counties and covered over 1,400 miles.
While they may not have won the competition, they left Europe with memories that will last a lifetime and knowing that there are people back home who cannot wait to see them and hear all about their adventure.
Hallie Anderson is a student intern for Spectrum and a senior communications student studying journalism and public relations at Walla Walla University.
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