October 03, 2007

Justin Miller named 'Ultimate Saluki' Saluki Challenge contestants form strong bonds

by Christi Mathis


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CARBONDALE, Ill. – Justin Miller is THE Ultimate Saluki! That's what a jury of his peers and comrades decided at the end of a grueling weekend competition that saw 16 Southern Illinois University Carbondale students huddling together for warmth, eating a variety of creepy, crawly creatures and facing off in a variety of mentally and physically taxing contests.

Miller, a senior in physiology from Murphysboro, won the second annual Ultimate Saluki Challenge on Sept. 30, capping a 52-hour battle styled after the popular "Survivor" television show. Miller claimed a $500 book scholarship at the University Bookstore, two Missouri Valley Conference Championship tournament tickets with lodging from Saluki Athletics and a large Quatro's pizza.

Joining Miller on the podium for the final "tribal council" vote were Ryan Hoyt, a junior from Lincoln majoring in administration of justice with a psychology minor, and James Wieman, an undeclared freshman from Roscoe. Hoyt took second place, claiming a prize package from Shawnee Trails and Dick's Sporting Goods, and Wieman rounded out the top three earning roundtrip Chicago Amtrak tickets and gift certificates from Dick's Sporting Goods and Panera Bread

The journey to the final vote was not an easy one. The 16 contestants were able to bring to Campus Lake Beach a "very short list" of clothing including a spare outfit and a swimsuit, said Sally J. Wright, assistant director of Recreational Sports and Services. Divided into the Pharaoh and Sphinx teams, each group got just a tent, a five-gallon jug of water and a few saltine crackers.

Like their television counterparts, they competed in challenges to win special prizes and rewards including long-sleeve shirts, blankets and restaurant food. While "stranded" on the Campus Lake Beach and at the Touch of Nature Environmental Center, they tested their intestinal fortitude by eating crickets, mealworms, beetle larvae and earthworms. They raced canoes, and created and sailed cardboard boats in hopes of paddling first across the finish line.

There was an archery contest, a trivia competition with questions about SIUC past and present, and a challenge in which one team member guided blindfolded teammates by voice to puzzle pieces, then assembled them into totem poles. Teams tested their orienteering skills using a compass to find flint, steel and everything they needed in the woods and then in turn competed to build the first fire that would burn through a string hung above it. The competition was intense and before it was over, each contestant claimed a "significant prize," according to Wright.

"They were totally committed," Wright said. "They all worked really hard at it."

But, Wright is quick to note that despite the fervor, the SIUC students exhibited tremendous sportsmanship. Many of the students hadn't met before the 2007 Ultimate Saluki Challenge but after working together in the challenges, huddling together for warmth and spending that much time together, relying on one another, they "learned a lot about themselves and other people," Wright said. "The outcome was tremendous for these 16 people. They formed pretty strong bonds in a short period of time. They're already making plans to get together again."

One by one, tribal council votes banished contestants until just three remained. The final nine voted off returned to cast their ballots at the final "Tribal Council" hosted by Mike Skupin, of "Survivor-Australia" fame. As Payton Thompson, Allie McCreary, Sarah Attutis, Josh Sheehan, Joseph Batir, Kevin Hennelly, Andrew Santiago, Steven Willi and Casey Fabianski prepared to cast their votes, the three finalists gave testimonials and answered questions. Strongly evident was a new sense of appreciation for themselves, SIUC and those around them. Indeed, Wright said one and all are in fact, winners and 'ultimate Salukis.'"

Contestants, listed by hometown with year of school and major, were:


• Alto Pass: Priciliano Fabian, freshman, workforce education, Spanish minor.

• Carbondale: Payton Thompson, freshman, pre-medicine.

• Channahon: Joseph Batir, senior, geology with physics and math minors.

• Chester: Sarah Roth, freshman, cinema/photography.

• Columbia: Allie McCreary, senior, forestry, environmental studies minor.

• Crystal Lake: Josh Sheehan, junior, recreation.

• Du Quoin: Steven Willi, senior, communication design.

• Genoa: Andrew Santiago, freshman, architecture.

• Lake Villa: Kevin Hennelly, freshman, undecided.

• Lincoln: Ryan Hoyt, junior, administration of justice, psychology minor.

• Murphysboro: Justin Miller, senior, physiology.

• New Lenox: Casey Fabianski, freshman, kinesiology.

• Roscoe: James Wieman, freshman, undecided.

• Westville: Sarah Attutis, graduate student, mortuary science and funeral science.

• Woodstock: Elizabeth Gazdziak, freshman, aviation flight.


• Gallatin: Randy Campion, senior, computer and electrical engineering, math minor.


Caption follows story


Canoe race — Members of team Pharaoh compete in the Southern Illinois University Carbondale Ultimate Saluki Challenge canoe race. Pictured left to right: Steven Willi, Joseph Batir, Sarah Attutis, Andrew Santiago, Randy Campion, Sarah Roth and Josh Sheehan.

Photo provided

Fire-starter — Members of the Sphinx team compete in a fire-starting competition during the Southern Illinois University Carbondale Ultimate Saluki Challenge. They tested their orienteering skills using a compass to find flint, steel and other necessities to start a fire and then build the fire to burn through the string hanging above before the other team could complete the challenge. Pictured from lower left, clockwise, are: Ryan Hoyt, Payton Thompson, Kevin Hennelly, James Wieman, Allie McCreary and Justin Miller.

Photo provided