MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WBOY) — Mountaineer Week is an annual event that takes place at West Virginia University to celebrate Appalachian culture and share West Virginia heritage with students from in and out of state.

“It’s a great opportunity, especially for in-state students to kind of enjoy our heritage while also introducing that to other students that may not be from West Virginia and are just studying here, and it’s just a fun-filled week,” Mary Roush, former Mountaineer mascot and contest judge, said.

As last year’s Mountaineer mascot, it was a part of WVU tradition for her to be asked to come back as a judge for the Beard Growing Contest Monday afternoon.

“Just to carry on that tradition and just carry on the tradition of Mountaineer Week–all of these events are so special to everyone on campus and WVU Arts and Entertainment does to much to put this week together,” Roush said. “It’s really special for me and it’s really fun that I was invited back to judge the competition today.”

To kick off the events, WVU held its annual Beard Growing Contest in the Mountainlair Food Court. It is the longest running event of Mountaineer Week, with the tradition dating all the way back to 1949. For this event, students get the chance each year to compete for cash prizes based on who can grow their beard out the fastest, and the best.

For this year’s contest, WVU brought in barbers from Classic Cutz to provide the participants with a clean slate, shaving their beards off completely. The students then had until Oct. 30, a little over a month, to grow their beards back.

“I’ve been hearing about this contest, and I’ve had a beard well before this. So I just decided I’d do it this year since I haven’t before,” Michael Cochran, a WVU senior, said.

The contestants’ beards were assessed by a panel of three different judges, who also conducted interviews to learn more about each contestant. According to Roush, the judges critiqued each contestant based on their beard length, beard thickness as well as beard grooming. Regarding the interviews, she said that “we are looking a little bit into personality and why they chose to be here today and participate in the competition.”

There were three winning categories: $100 for first place, $75 for second place and $50 for the third place winner. The contestants that placed in each of these categories also received a complimentary shaving kit.

This year’s ultimate winner was Jake Hogan, a freshman student hailing from Devon, Pennsylvania. Hogan said that he feels honored to be selected as the winner and that he didn’t expect it.

“There was some great competition, but I mean I’m just very prideful of myself right now,” Hogan said.

To prepare for the competition, Hogan said that he cleaned up the bottom of his beard by trimming it up as it was in the process of growing out. However, other than that, he attributes his success to healthy habits and a healthy lifestyle.

Regarding the $100 top cash prize that he won, Hogan said that the money will likely go towards books for next semester, though he’s still happy to have received it.