Laura Wanlass ’08 Competes in 2019 Rebelle Rally

  • Renee Vento (left) and Laura Wanlass ’08

“Headstrong crazy fools” are not the typical adjectives used to describe our alums. Yet, that’s how The New York Times described participants in the “insane” women’s obstacle course known as Rebelle Rally—and one of those participants is Laura Wanlass ’08.

For the past two years, Wanlass earned the rally nickname “Badass Wanlass.” Laura and partner Renee Vento drove a 2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon on the eight-day, off-road navigation rally raid obstacle course across the deserts of California and Nevada in October 2019.

In her day job, Wanlass is a partner and head of corporate governance at the global professional services firm Aon in Arizona. She explains what moved her to get involved in the rally: “I had been working really hard for years to make partner. I put a lot of time and energy into it... I guess I kind of missed competition and Rebelle Rally allowed me to get back into the competitive world again.”

Inspired by a video in the YouTube series “ExpeditionOverland,” Wanlass competed in the Rebelle Rally for the first time in 2018. The competition requires grit: participants are awoken by a cowbell at 5 a.m. and cover close to 250 miles of rough terrain each day. Some days there were no roads and few visual markers to use for navigation. Cell phones and GPS were not allowed. Wanlass described the experience as “a digital detox” and “one of the very few times in your life where you have to be super-present, because you can’t be pulled in a different direction, really, you’re just in that moment.”

Last fall, Wanlass’s “Team Dirt Dweebs” finished 11th out of 29 teams and was one of six to win the Bone Stock Award, presented to the team that places highest in a vehicle that is “exactly as delivered from the factory.” For Wanlass and her partner, it wasn’t all about winning. They also helped competing teams along the way, including one team whose vehicle rolled over in sand dunes “the size of skyscrapers.”

“It felt really good to contribute to some of the other teams’ success in getting in through the dunes. And basically, it’s like having that grit just to get over some of your failures and still end on a high note.”