Markings motivate girl runners during their meets
Most Tonganoxie High girls cross country runners had their hands covered for Saturday's bitter cold regional meet in Marysville.
But underneath each of those warm gloves and long-sleeved shirts was a message: "Run Thru The Pain."
Tonganoxie runners have been writing the phrase on their hands the last few years.
Junior Christy Weller said the tradition started with former runners Kelley Stauch and Elizabeth Smith.
Stauch, who graduated in 2005, and Smith, in 2004, started writing on their hands as a way to push themselves, Weller said. The tradition then spread to other runners.
Usually, with a red Sharpie marker, the girls write the phrase on the backs of their hands.
"We use black if we forget the red," Kaitlyn Saathoff explained. "Otherwise, it's always red."
THS coach Phil Williams said he liked the pre-meet routine.
"I thought it was kind of a neat deal," Williams said. "I just saw them, over their shoulders, doing it one time. I didn't say anything and just let them do it. I thought it was pretty cool."
The markings are a reminder of what must be done to finish the 2.5-mile run across rugged terrain.
While all runners inscribe those four words on their hands, some also jot other phrases.
Some runners, such as Saathoff and Wagner, had "9:24" on their hands to symbolize a Bible passage.
Saathoff said it's from 1 Corinthians. Wagner said it's loosely translated as "run in such a way to win the prize."
Saathoff also pointed out that some runners had "FGGA" on their fingers, which stands for "For God's Glory Always."
As for the main writings on their hands, the runners opt for "thru" rather than the correct spelling of "through."
Katie Chenoweth said there was a simple reason for that.
"It takes up less space," she said.
Christy Weller scribbled additional writing on her arm that was more about fashion than motivation.
"Run fast, look sexy" was written on her arms, a request by volleyball player Hannah Herrstrom.
"If she didn't see it at volleyball, it would be an omen that they didn't win," explained Weller, who, along with Wagner, attended the substate volleyball tournament in Holton later Saturday.
Unfortunately for Herrstrom and her teammates, the phrase didn't provide a little extra luck. The Chieftains fell to Holton in the championship volleyball match.
As for Weller, she finished sixth at regionals.
Whether the team is unique in its ritual is uncertain, according to Williams, but he said he hasn't really noticed other teams writing messages on their hands.
"I thought that was a neat tradition they've been doing," Williams said.
Wagner noted that Kansas City Christian runners write "Jesus Saves" on the backs of their legs before races, but it appears the Chieftains have their own tradition with inscribing messages on their hands.
The squad will take the cap off the red Sharpie marker one last time this fall at the state meet Saturday in Wamego. The Class 4A girls race begins at 9:30 a.m.