Beach race honors past student, adapts for future growth


More than two hundred runners are expected to gather at Johnnie Mercer’s Pier March 21 for a morning beach run, bagel and brotherhood, offered by one of the newer pier-to-pier 5k race events to find a home on Wrightsville’s beach strand.

For more than a decade, the race has been coordinated by the Delta Tau Delta chapter at University of North Carolina Wilmington in memory of former student and brother Daniel McGregor, who died in a car accident while taking a fishing trip with his father in Florida. The loss shook the UNCW Delta Tau Delta community, composed of only 30 or 40 members at the time, said Ryan Hatfield, 2015 event organizer and junior biology major.

“There was a profound impact on the fraternity,” Hatfield said.

The fraternity rallied together and responded to the tragedy by organizing the race and creating a scholarship in McGregor’s name. The race netted enough profits to award a scholarship to a UNCW student in financial need every few years. But when Hatfield took the reins as organizer in 2014, he made a few strategic changes to reinvent the race, attracting more participation and raising more money, enabling the fraternity to expand its list of beneficiaries.

Traditionally held on campus during homecoming, Hatfield decided to relocate the race to the Wrightsville Beach shoreline between Johnnie Mercer’s Pier and Crystal Pier. More than 100 runners showed up at the new venue in 2014, about four times as many as the previous year, and raised $1,400.

“People love the beach. People love running near water,” Hatfield said. “It’s the coolest, most cost-effective place to have it.”

The surge in participation allowed the fraternity to share some profits with the Coastal Carolina Branch of JDRF, the local arm of a national organization created to treat, connect and, by funding research, eventually cure people diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

Hatfield expects the 2015 race to draw at least 200 runners, and between event proceeds and donations secured by about 50 Delta Tau Delta brothers, raise between $3,500 and $5,000. The proceeds will again be split between the McGregor Scholarship Fund and JDRF.

After attracting more runners in the 2014 race, Hatfield said he is working to create a more social environment at the 2015 race.

“It was great to have a lot of people there, but once the race was over, everybody left. I thought it might be nice to have a vibe going where a bunch of people can get a bagel, hang out and talk,” Hatfield said.

Bagels and smoothies, provided by Beach Bagels and Planet Smoothie, will be available for participants after the race, Hatfield said, after the fraternity worked collectively to secure community partnerships.

Registration begins at 8 a.m. March 21, with the race following at 9 a.m. For more information,or to register, visit


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