LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — It was an early morning start for some 50 Army Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets as they made their way from Lansing to Ann Arbor Friday at 2 a.m.

The 66-mile run honors the late Alex Powell who lost his battle with cancer while attending Michigan State University in 2014.

Since then, Alex’s Great State Race has become an annual relay for ROTC students from both the University of Michigan and MSU.

“After he passed away they had the idea of honoring Alex and raising awareness and funds for the disability services for students,” said Michelle O’Kelly, the race’s event director. “Typically there’s five people who are running at all times. They are carrying the MSU flag, the U of M flag, the American flag and then both U of M and MSU game balls.”

The cadets run in five-mile increments. They carry the game balls through small cities over 10 hours.

“Some students are wanting to do the whole thing,” said Robert Sullivan, Army Recruiting Operations Officer at MSU. “We’re like no you can’t do that. Let’s keep it, five miles here, five miles there.”

In the nine years of this race, the groups have raised more than $200,000. The money is split evenly and distributed to support each school’s persons with disabilities centers. O’Kelly said it’s a great way to turn a rivalry into camaraderie before the big game.

“I’m sure it’s a healthy competition,” Sullivan said. “Maybe they kind of pick up the pace here and there. It’s a friendly competition, let’s just put it that way.

The cadets arrived in Ann Arbor around noon on Friday.