WEST POINT, N.Y. -- For 19 years West Point marathoners have been an integral part of Army-Navy Game history as the long-distance ball handlers representing the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
On Dec. 6, the West Point Marathon team continues the tradition.
Eighteen cadets, one midshipman and several Army officers will depart from Daly Field during the Spirit Rally to run nearly 150 miles and deliver the ceremonial game ball to Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.
Marathon Team Captains Cadets Nate Einfeldt and Leora Reyhan are expected to receive the handoff from the Black Knights around 7 p.m., before making their way through the Corps of Cadets to start the overnight delivery.
"The Army-Navy Ball Run is such a special tradition--one that the team is very lucky to be a part of," Reyhan said. "This is an event that we look forward to all year long."
The Class of 2015 cadet is an international relations and German major who said sometimes after a long day of academics it can be hard to muster the motivation to end every day with a long-distance run. Yet once the team assembles and begins training, there's nothing else she'd rather do.
"Being a member of the team is a really special experience … we inspire each other and cheer each other on at practice and in races," Reyhan said. "I've developed so much as a runner since being on the team, and I know I couldn't do it without my teammates."
Last year, two midshipmen in the exchange program between the two academies became temporary team members for a semester and participated in the Ball Run. Today, Midshipman Thomas Rowland is the sole middie running the ball for the Army team.
"I'm excited to run the ball with the Marathon team this year and get to see what the Ball Run means to them," Rowland said. "It will be a great experience, especially being on the field for the 'prisoner exchange' and being able to join Navy on the sideline. I can't wait for Navy to get the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy back."
The Naval Academy also conducts a Ball Run, which first began in 1982, according to a 2009 press release on the U.S. Navy website. However, their roster of runners comes from the 13th Company.
The West Point Marathon team has carried the weight since 1994 when the cadets made their first 150-mile trek to Veterans Stadium. The team took up the run after a several-year hiatus when the Corps of Cadets--one representative from each company-- would carry the ball. That tradition began in 1984 and four years later faculty from the Department of Mathematical Sciences developed their own 13th Man Spirit Run. Like the saying about old Soldiers, those traditions faded away until the Marathon team renewed the effort and the entire team is ready to represent the "12th Man," once again.
"This is Army's year, and running the ball to the greatest football rivalry of all time shows our support for an Army victory," Class of 2015 Cadet Connor Roche said.
Look for the Marathon Team on the field minutes before kickoff to officially hand over the game ball Dec. 8 during the 113th meeting of the Army Black Knights and the Navy Midshipmen.
Game time coverage begins at 3 p.m. on CBS with the March On scheduled for 12:15 p.m.