By Mandy Bell, GoPSUSports.com Student Feature Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Four years ago, as a freshman, Carly Celkos joined her field hockey team on stage at Penn State's 46-hour dance marathon, THON, to dance in the annual pep rally. As she looked out over the floor seeing the hundreds of dancers who chose to stand for the entire weekend, Celkos knew that is where she wanted to be before she graduated.
"In my freshman year, all the freshmen wore crazy outfits and I was in a banana suit," Celkos said. "We split into grades and did like a 30 second clip and danced and I did the jerk. It was just a lot of fun. Then I started doing committees my sophomore, junior and senior year and I knew I wanted to dance my senior year to come full circle."
Now, as a senior, Celkos will be dancing in THON 2017, as a Student-Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) representative from the field hockey team. SAAB selects student-athletes each year from various programs to dance in THON based on the athlete's participation in fundraising for the event. Celkos is one of four athletes who will be representing SAAB throughout THON weekend.
"I am so proud and thankful," Celkos said. "The field hockey alumni have been great and they have helped me raise so much money for THON. It definitely makes me proud to be a Penn Stater. I get to represent athletics and Penn State for all the kids, so it's really great."
SAAB is paired with two THON families. Each athletic team shares its time with the two families, but Celkos and the field hockey team spend a lot more time with one family than any other athletic team on campus.
The trainer for the field hockey team is Renee Messina. Messina's daughter, Isabella, had pediatric cancer. Growing up with a mom who was constantly with the Penn State field hockey team, Isabella has a close relationship with the field hockey team. Celkos said she will be using Isabella as her main motivation throughout THON weekend.
Isabella will be in attendance at THON between her field hockey games at a local tournament. Celkos said when those familiar faces are with her, the weekend will be much easier.
"I was thinking there's definitely been times in games when you mentally think you can't do it anymore, but you have another five minutes and you just have to," Celkos said. "I definitely will hit those moments during THON where I am super tired, but I'll just have to get over the hump and cruise through."
To help her during these tough moments, Celkos has a list of close family and friends who will be able to come visit her on the floor to give her that extra motivation to stay on her feet. Some of her pass list members include her parents, some teammates and her roommates. Celkos said that her parents have been the biggest help in preparation for THON and some of her family members have been preparing packages she will receive during the event.
Other than seeing her family, friends and THON families, Celkos is looking forward to experiencing her two favorite THON events as a dancer on the floor.
"I am definitely biased. I love the pep rally," Celkos said. "I am really excited to watch it. I am not going to dance with my team this year, but I am going to go up after to get a picture with them. I know all the athletes so that will be so much fun. Also, the final four hours are always amazing."
Celkos found out that she would be dancing in THON this year on January 18. Since then, the senior has been preparing physically as if she were training for the field hockey season. Celkos has also worked on getting as much sleep as possible and avoiding all colds and stomach bugs that have been spreading on campus. Her biggest preparation has been eliminating coffee from her diet and drinking a lot of water to be ready to stand, without sleep, for 46 straight hours.
After years of fundraising, participating in committees and now dancing, Celkos encourages every Penn State student to get involved with THON."It's definitely a great community outreach that reaches so many people," Celkos said. "Especially for athletes, we are really on a time constraint, but whatever time you can give to other things do it. THON has helped me have a more well-rounded experience at Penn State. Certain kids look up to certain athletic teams, so it's definitely great when they see us giving back too."