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SUNY Canton takes active role in sponsoring local sports

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If you live in the north country, you’ve seen SUNY Canton’s commercials. The slogan, “That’s my SUNY Canton,” has aired regularly on television as the college tries to raise its profile with the public.

SUNY Canton’s attempts at increased exposure includes the sport of automobile racing as the college has been sponsoring cars and series races since 2008.

“It’s been very successful for us,” said Michael Perry, the executive director of the school’s college association. “Part of the goal was to get some name recognition out there. This is one of those vehicles and an awful lot of people are involved. We were surprised to find out how many of our alumni were involved in racing and how many current students are. We are reaching some of our audience that way and we’ve generated a lot of local enrollment.”

Relatively few drivers are sponsored by the school, which provides a monetary donation to help with expenses. To get a SUNY Canton sponsorship, a driver must be either an alumni of the school or a current student.

Some of the drivers with SUNY Canton sponsorships include Watertown native Billy Dunn, Odgensburg’s Brad Winters, Joel Hargrave and Zach Amo and Wellesley Island’s Christine Martin.

“One of the top 10 modified DIRT racers in the nation, Larry Wight, is a student at SUNY Canton,” Perry said. “Another student that will be coming this fall is last year’s Empire Super Sprints champion, Chuck Hebring.”

SUNY Canton sponsors some of the big races around the region as well, including the Outlaw 200 at the Fulton Speedway and the Hurricane 100 at the Brewerton Speedway, and has ongoing sponsorships with Can-Am Motorsports Park and Evans Mills Speedway.

Despite the success SUNY Canton has had with getting its name out in the public, other schools have not really followed with racing sponsorship.

“I’m sure there are some involved in other regions,” Perry said. “A few times over the years we’ve seen a couple institutions do one specific event, or something of that nature. Nobody else seemed to have the ongoing presence that we choose to have. It’s come to be recognized by fans that we support this sport. In return they think of us as a place where their son or daughter can begin their institutional careers. This is one of a lot of different things we’ve been doing and our enrollment is exploding.”

SUNY Canton has also gotten into local baseball this summer, sponsoring the Watertown Wizards.

All the efforts have seen the school go from about 2,000 students four years ago to the expected 3,500 this fall.

“Our emphasis has been just plain name recognition in a local sport,” Perry said. “We centered it more in the Jefferson County area, where we were always a bit lower in recognition because of (Jefferson Community College). This (DIRT racing) has been an informal thing. We don’t use state money for this. We use marketing dollars from other sources on campus. We look at specific things we think people would feel good about SUNY Canton being a supporter of. That’s why I looked at (the Wizards).”

MAHANEY, DUNN CO-WINNERS

Mike Mahaney and Billy Dunn were declared co-winners of the SUNY Canton big block/small block modified shootout Thursday night at Can-Am Motorsports Park in LaFargeville. Matt Sheppard was the actual winner of the 45-lap feature, but he and Tim Fuller did not pass the postrace inspection. Justin Haers, Robby Bellinger and Larry Wight finished in the top five.

Josh Van Brocklin won the 25-lap sportsman, with Dale Caswell and Brandon Hagan finishing in the top three. Sid Harmer Sr. won the 20-lap pro stock feature with Kevin Smith and Rick Dusckas finishing second and third, respectively. JR Durham won the 15-lap thunder car race with John Stanley taking second and O.J. White third.

Can-Am won’t have racing Saturday night because of several high school graduations in the north country. Racing resumes at the speedway on June 30.

A full race program is scheduled Saturday night at the Evans Mills Speedway, including a women’s truck race and an enduro race. Racing begins at 6.

Sportswriter John O’Donnell contributed to this report.

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