• Class of 2013Cadet Nate Einfeldt, Class of 2015 Leora Reyhan and Class of 2014 Cadet Adam Irons prepares to take the Army-Navy Game ball out of West Point and into Highland Falls, N.Y., for several miles of the 2012 Army Game Ball Run. The first group of marathoners were tasked with running the first 53 miles of the relay run into Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa. Two other vans of runners would follow and eventually the entire team would run the last stretch of road in downtown Philadelphia together. Photo by Mike Strasser/USMA PAO

    West Point Marathoners ready to run

    Class of 2013Cadet Nate Einfeldt, Class of 2015 Leora Reyhan and Class of 2014 Cadet Adam Irons prepares to take the Army-Navy Game ball out of West Point and into Highland Falls, N.Y., for several miles of the 2012 Army Game Ball Run. The first group...

  • Class of 2014 Cadet Mackenzie Vaughn, a civil engineering major, runs solo while her teammates conserve their energy for their shifts in the 150-mile journey from West Point to Philadelphia. Vaughn said she couldn't imagine even a year ago about running a marathon but credits her team for helping her qualify to compete in the Boston Marathon this April. Photo by Mike Strasser/USMA PAO

    West Point marathoners run Army-Navy Game Ball into Philadelphia

    Class of 2014 Cadet Mackenzie Vaughn, a civil engineering major, runs solo while her teammates conserve their energy for their shifts in the 150-mile journey from West Point to Philadelphia. Vaughn said she couldn't imagine even a year ago about...

  • Lt. Col. Scott Chancellor, the West Point Marathon team's officer in charge, joins Class of 2015 Cadet Daniel Schlich on the road. Schlich recently placed 20th among a field of nearly 5,000 at the Richmond Marathon"and fifth in his age division with a 2:38 time and will be competing this April in the Boston Marathon. Photo by Mike Strasser/USMA PAO

    West Point's road runners head to Philly

    Lt. Col. Scott Chancellor, the West Point Marathon team's officer in charge, joins Class of 2015 Cadet Daniel Schlich on the road. Schlich recently placed 20th among a field of nearly 5,000 at the Richmond Marathon"and fifth in his age division with a...

  • West Point marathoners decorated three vans with a particular "Go Army' motif before heading out to Philadelphia to deliver the game ball on foot. Photo by Mike Strasser/USMA PAO

    Sending a message to Philly

    West Point marathoners decorated three vans with a particular "Go Army' motif before heading out to Philadelphia to deliver the game ball on foot. Photo by Mike Strasser/USMA PAO

  • Class of 2012 Cadet Meg-Ann Braun and Class of 2016 Cadet Tiffany Matthews enjoys an early morning run--their second shift, after running the night before as the West Point Marathon team headed to Philadelphia to deliver the game ball before the Army-Navy Game Dec. 8. Photo by Mike Strasser/USMA PAO

    Early morning commute to Philadelphia for Army-Navy Game

    Class of 2012 Cadet Meg-Ann Braun and Class of 2016 Cadet Tiffany Matthews enjoys an early morning run--their second shift, after running the night before as the West Point Marathon team headed to Philadelphia to deliver the game ball before the...

  • More and more West Point marathoners join the final stretch of a 150-mile relay race from West Point, N.Y., to Philadelphia during the 19th annual Army Ball Run. Photo by Mike Strasser/USMA PAO

    West Point marathoners go downtown in Philadelphia

    More and more West Point marathoners join the final stretch of a 150-mile relay race from West Point, N.Y., to Philadelphia during the 19th annual Army Ball Run. Photo by Mike Strasser/USMA PAO

  • The West Point Marathon team paid a visit to the King of Prussia Volunteer Fire Company and spoke with firefighters and veterans during a short break en route to Philadelphia with the Army-Navy Game ball. Photo by Mike Strasser/USMA PAO

    Cadets pay a visit to veterans, firefighters

    The West Point Marathon team paid a visit to the King of Prussia Volunteer Fire Company and spoke with firefighters and veterans during a short break en route to Philadelphia with the Army-Navy Game ball. Photo by Mike Strasser/USMA PAO

  • With the bonfire lit and the spirit rally still going strong, the West Point Marathon team could see it from the rearview mirrors as they depart West Point for a 150-mile relay race with the Army-Navy Game ball. The team would complete their journey in 24 hours. Photo by Mike Strasser/USMA PAO

    West Point Marathoners head south

    With the bonfire lit and the spirit rally still going strong, the West Point Marathon team could see it from the rearview mirrors as they depart West Point for a 150-mile relay race with the Army-Navy Game ball. The team would complete their journey in...

  • In 1984 volunteers from the Corps of Cadets made the first delivery of the Army game ball. That tradition faded away until the Marathon team revived it in 1994 and they've been running the ball ever since. It's only logical the academy's best long-distance runners would represent the Army in the annual Ball Run.

    On the road with the West Point Marathon team

    In 1984 volunteers from the Corps of Cadets made the first delivery of the Army game ball. That tradition faded away until the Marathon team revived it in 1994 and they've been running the ball ever since. It's only logical the academy's best...

  • After 24 hours on the road, the West Point Marathon team completes the 150-mile relay run by entering Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia with the game ball. Photo by Mike Strasser/USMA PAO

    The finish line

    After 24 hours on the road, the West Point Marathon team completes the 150-mile relay run by entering Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia with the game ball. Photo by Mike Strasser/USMA PAO

WEST POINT, N.Y. (Dec. 8, 2012) -- Twenty-four hours after accepting the Army-Navy Game ball during the spirit rally at West Point, N.Y., the U.S. Military Academy's Marathon team ended its long-distance relay run as they entered Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

They had just encountered the friendliest of welcoming parties in downtown Philly around 7 p.m. Dec. 7, with people cheering, cars honking and excitement growing the further they moved into the city.

But it was quiet inside the empty stadium … just the team and a group of veterans and military supporters who escorted them on the final stretch of road from King of Prussia, Pa., into Philadelphia.

After 150-miles of pounding rubber soles onto cold concrete, the road-weary travelers exchanged handshakes, hugs, words of appreciation and called it a night. The team would make the moment more official Dec. 8 when they returned to the stadium again with the world watching the ceremonial handoff of the game ball.

In 1984 volunteers from the Corps of Cadets made the first delivery of the Army game ball. That tradition faded away until the Marathon team revived it in 1994 and they've been running the ball ever since. It's only logical the academy's best long-distance runners would represent the Army in the annual Ball Run.

Case in point, every team member who ran the Richmond Marathon in November earned a spot to compete in the Boston Marathon this April. For West Point marathoners, that's like playing in the Army-Navy Game itself or competing in the Olympics. It's the pinnacle of their collegiate athletic careers.

They've certainly got the legs and stamina to run the ball cross-country, but better yet, they've got the right spirit. It doesn't diminish in below-freezing weather or falter by erratic roadways. When Class of 2015 Cadet Leora Reyhan jumped back into the van after completing several miles, her damp hair was frozen stiff. Every time runners returned to the van, the chill could actually be felt extending off their bodies for nearly a minute until their circulation returns to normal.

"It's cold, but you get used to it," she said, straightforwardly.

Her fellow co-captain, Class of 2013 Cadet Nate Einfeldt, puzzled her because he chose to wear a tank top and shorts.

"How is he doing that?" Reyhan asked.

The best guess was he's part Alaskan, but Einfeldt hails from Atlanta, Ga., so he's not exactly a native of winter weather. Class of 2016 Cadet Nicholas Juliano resembled a human popsicle, nursing a frozen mouth with a drop of blood on his teeth caused by cracked lips. Still, they weren't complaining about anything--merely stating facts, nor did it keep them from going back out again. Even when given a shift that became mostly an uphill run, it's spoken about more with pride for tackling the incline than aggravation for getting it. What mattered more to Juliano was that his English instructor, who just happens to be the team's officer-in-charge Lt. Col. Scott Chancellor, had assigned him homework over Army-Navy weekend. With term-end exams and deadlines for papers approaching, their minds were still very much in the classroom at times.

That spirit goes especially for the "graveyard shift." Of the three vans of runners, the second one, led by Maj. Sharon Kircher, is notorious for having to endure running in the darkest of night, in the coldest of temperatures and with the least amount of sleep. They may have more right to claim hardship, but didn't.

"This is my favorite shift," Class of 2012 Cadet Meg-Ann Braun said. "During my first year, all the plebes got stuck on this shift--well, there were only two of us--but all the plebes and yearlings were in this van and I've loved it since."

"There's no one else out there, so it's like we own the place," Class of 2016 Cadet Tiffany Matthews said.

The only distinguishable difference in this group from the others is their enthusiasm was tempered--intermittent bursts, usually after a pair of runners returned to the warmth of the van, but then, like a switch, the chatter turned off abruptly for a quick nap.

Karn, running his fourth and final Army Ball Run, said those in the graveyard shift are all about the business at hand--running that football.

"After a while the conversations will end when you realize, OK, it's 3 in the morning and I need a little nap before it's my turn to run again," Karn said.

Remarkably, Braun and Matthews emerged quickly from rest and returned to the road for their second shift as if they were waking from a good night's sleep for a morning run. They returned invigorated and animated after clearing a four-mile stretch.

"It was warmer out this time, which is good," Matthews said. "More hills, but not bad."

She's already looking forward to three more years of running the game ball.

"I cannot wait to do this again--three more times," Matthews said. "This is a blast, so much fun."

Her running partner, however, had done her share of five Army Ball Runs, having had an extended stay at the academy for double shoulder surgery.

"The fifth and final time … it's awesome as always," Braun said.

When Class of 2016 Marc Samland thought he only had about five or six miles left in him, he ran much further--even running in place for a bit while the convoy figured out a detour route around the heavy main road traffic.

"Once I started going I couldn't stop," Samland said. "It felt great and the countryside was beautiful. It's been great seeing people from these different states and just being out there is unique. Generally, people are supportive. I passed an older lady who was running and she was cheering me on. It was a great experience … fun."

No prizes could be awarded for most energetic on this overnight trip--they were equally prolific in storytelling, jokes and shop talk on running. Class of 2013 Cadet Johannes Olind argued the marathon is a perfect test of human endurance--just enough mileage to truly push the body to its limits. The ultramarathon runners in the van countered that theory, having found 50 miles to be just as rewarding an experience as a regular marathon. Hours earlier, faced with spine-shivering temperatures, Capt. Mark Davis, an instructor in the Department of Physical Education, provided a short discourse on cold-weather training--a lesson he just gave in class that day. With nothing to see but the runners illuminated by headlights for hours at a time, sometimes analysis was doled out on their particular gait, form and little quirks in movement. Even a hundred miles away from the academy, there are teaching opportunities.

Braun amused herself by teasing Class of 2015 Cadet Daniel Schlich, an underclassman, for being a road machine, but it's all good-natured. In Richmond, he placed 20th among a field of nearly 5,000--fifth in his age division with a 2:38 time. Likewise, Reyhan might encounter friendly flak for not being knowledgeable about classic rock, yet she's a rock star on the road after finishing first in Richmond for her age division with a time of 3:21:12. Juliano is mocked for being--of all things--too verbose when he admitted to overextending the word count on a research paper for which he received an A- grade.

Midshipman Tom Rowland would seem the perfect target for ridicule--being the sole runner from the exchange program with the U.S. Naval Academy--but, no. Midshipmen have long been welcomed onto the Marathon team for the semester they attend West Point and are treated no differently. However, the idea of handing over the Army football to a Navy runner does bring up conspiracy theories. At one point he faked a fumble, which caused a mild eruption of shock inside the van. That wasn't as much concern as the way Juliano was clutching the game ball with one hand. Einfeldt yelled from inside the van for the freshman to cradle it properly.

Sitting up front in the van, Reyhan was the first to welcome runners back in and asked how they were feeling--like when Class of 2015 Cadet David Richardson recorded the most road time during the first leg of the run.

"I was having fun, and it was kind of motivating being out there with people cheering 'Go Army' out their windows," Richardson said.

Later, Olind and Class of 2013 Cadet Colin Chapman would go even further--running roughly 80 minutes before readily tagging out for the next pair. Each van had differing strategies for completing their leg of the run. Some ran in pairs, triplets and infrequently in larger groups; sometimes it would be a solo run to conserve the energy of others for longer distances.

There was never the mass gathering of onlookers like they experienced in downtown Philadelphia, but occasionally people outside a tavern or apartment complex had just enough time to catch sight of the spirit messages painted on the sides of the vans and realized what this convoy was all about. Making out the "Go Army, Beat Navy motif on the windows, spectators had just enough time to frame the action on their camera phones. Sometimes, a guest runner would join them, like Col. Tom Kastner, the former officer-in-charge of the Marathon team, who met up with Einfeldt and Richardson for part of the run. Kastner retired from the Army after 30 years of service to the nation, last having served as the director of the dean's staff and professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at the U.S. Military Academy.

West Point Class of 1948 graduate Roger Conover enjoyed blasting Army fight songs on his car stereo. Conover has participated at least three times before and ran a quarter mile with Karn and Class of 2015 Cadet Ben Shields.

"He's in great shape," Karn said, impressed by this fit member of the Long Gray Line. "He talked for a little bit and told us it was nice to be able to come out and run with us."

"He was pretty serious when he said we have to beat Navy … with conviction," Shields said.

The team doesn't have many opportunities for overnight travel, let alone overnight distance running so the annual Ball Run allows them a full day to build camaraderie and team cohesion, mostly in the confines of a van.

"Well, we got to spend a lot of time together, and it has been a unique experience that no one else has," Maj. Sarah Wolberg, assistant officer-in-charge, said.

At times the journey seemed more than just about a football or even football game. Part extreme team-building exercise and part goodwill tour, the marathoners proved to be exceptional at both. Every stopping point turned into an occasion to meet the public and represent the U.S. Military Academy.

At one fire station, a construction worker was eager to get a photo of him holding the game ball, but first got to know the cadets carrying the ball. They also received a warm reception at Reagent Chemical in Ringoes, N.J. The company has been hosting the Marathon team during their Army Ball Run since 2005. Greg Huljack, a human resource manager, was among the first to greet the marathoners outside the office building. He said everyone is familiar with the annual Army-Navy Game but in 2005 the Ball Run was something of a surprise to them.

"The route that they run just happens to pass this office and one day one of our employees happened to see them approaching," Huljack said. "So everybody went out and started cheering."

Just a day earlier, the Girls Scouts had been delivering their cookies in the area, so the runners were treated to some refreshments. Since that first year, the gathering has become like a homecoming, with lots of food to eat while reminiscing and introducing new faces. The walls, decorated with poster boards of past Ball Run photos, documents all the West Point Marathon teams over the years. Once, they organized an appearance by a 100-piece high school band to welcome the runners with Army songs. Huljack said it's a little ironic for him to be so supportive of the Army team when his own son is a U.S. Naval Academy graduate and marathon runner.

"But this has always been a good-spirited and honorable exchange," Huljack said.

The Marathon team had much praise for the seamless escort provided by state and local police through every county, township and borough across three states. When they could, the marathoners would stop and chat before presenting them with commemorative Army T-shirts. When they couldn't, a few waves and words of thanks got the message across.

A fire truck led the way at one point, bringing the runners to the King of Prussia Volunteer Fire Company, where a large crowd gathered to meet them. After speaking with the cadets, a few photos were taken with community members who then filled the team van with snacks for the remainder of the trip.

Maj. John Dvorak was clearly a happy runner as he completed nearly 20 miles at the end of the trip. The assistant officer-in-charge ran alone at times or with his sister, Therese Dymek, and Wolberg, eventually filling the middle lane of the road with the entire team. Both officers would pump their arms skyward, and Dvorak held the game ball above his head to get a response out of the pedestrians and motorists.

"The adrenaline just carries you out there," Dvorak said, joined by the entire team for the last few miles. "This is the part that makes it all worthwhile … bringing it home."

Dvorak was a member of the "Glory Van," the group of marathoners who run the final stretch of road with most of the fanfare along the way. No matter how tired or cold, the entire team musters the energy for the downtown run to the stadium.

"The last few miles were incredible. We were pumped up, it was great," Samland said. "The people, the energy the lights…it was great. That, and knowing we were almost at the end."

Twenty-four hours after accepting the Army-Navy Game ball during the spirit rally at West Point, the U.S. Military Academy's Marathon team ended its long-distance relay run as the runners entered Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

They had just encountered the friendliest of welcoming parties in downtown Philly around 7 p.m. Dec. 7, with people cheering, cars honking and excitement growing the further they moved into the city.

But it was quiet inside the empty stadium … just the team and a group of veterans and military supporters who escorted them on the final stretch of road from King of Prussia, Pa., into Philadelphia.

After 150 miles of pounding rubber soles onto cold concrete, the road-weary travelers exchanged handshakes, hugs, words of appreciation and called it a night. The team would make the moment more official Dec. 8 when they returned to the stadium again with the world watching the ceremonial handoff of the game ball.

In 1984 volunteers from the Corps of Cadets made the first delivery of the Army game ball. That tradition faded away until the Marathon team revived it in 1994 and they've been running the ball ever since. It's only logical the academy's best long-distance runners would represent the Army in the annual Ball Run.

Case in point, every team member who ran the Richmond Marathon in November earned a spot to compete in the Boston Marathon this April. For West Point marathoners, that's like playing in the Army-Navy Game itself or competing in the Olympics. It's the pinnacle of their collegiate athletic careers.

They've certainly got the legs and stamina to run the ball cross-country, but better yet, they've got the right spirit. It doesn't diminish in sub-degree weather or falter by erratic roadways. When Class of 2015 Cadet Leora Reyhan jumped back into the van after completing several miles, her damp hair was frozen stiff. Every time runners returned to the van, the chill could actually be felt extending off their bodies for nearly a minute until their circulation returned to normal.

"It's cold, but you get used to it," she said, straightforwardly.

Her fellow co-captain, Class of 2013 Cadet Nate Einfeldt, puzzled her because he chose to wear a tank top and shorts.

"How is he doing that?" Reyhan asked.

The best guess was he's part Alaskan, but Einfeldt hails from Atlanta, Ga., so he's not exactly a native of winter weather. Class of 2016 Cadet Nicholas Juliano resembled a human popsicle, nursing a frozen mouth with a drop of blood on his teeth caused by cracked lips. Still, they weren't complaining about anything--merely stating facts, nor did it keep them from going back out again. Even when they were given a shift that became mostly an uphill run, it's spoken about more with pride for tackling the incline than aggravation for getting it. What mattered more to Juliano was that his English instructor, who just happens to be the team's officer-in-charge, Lt. Col. Scott Chancellor, had assigned him homework over Army-Navy weekend. With term-end exams and deadlines for papers approaching, their minds were still very much in the classroom at times.

That spirit goes especially for the "graveyard shift." Of the three vans of runners, the second one, led by Maj. Sharon Kircher, is notorious for having to endure running in the darkest of night, in the coldest of temperatures and with the least amount of sleep. They may have more right to claim hardship, but didn't.

"This is my favorite shift," Class of 2012 Cadet Meg-Ann Braun said. "During my first year, all the plebes got stuck on this shift--well, there were only two of us--but all the plebes and yearlings were in this van and I've loved it since."

"There's no one else out there, so it's like we own the place," Class of 2016 Cadet Tiffany Matthews said.

The only distinguishable difference in this group from the others is its enthusiasm was tempered--intermittent bursts, usually after a pair of runners returned to the warmth of the van--but then, like a switch, the chatter turned off abruptly for a quick nap.

Class of 213 Cadet Ben Karn, running his fourth and final Army Ball Run, said those in the graveyard shift are all about the business at hand--running that football.

"After a while the conversations will end when you realize, OK, it's 3 in the morning and I need a little nap before it's my turn to run again," Karn said.

Remarkably, Braun and Matthews emerged quickly from their rest and returned to the road for their second shift as if they were waking from a good night's sleep for a morning run. They returned invigorated and animated after clearing a four-mile stretch.

"It was warmer out this time, which is good," Matthews said. "More hills, but not bad."
She's already looking forward to three more years of running the game ball.

"I cannot wait to do this again--three more times," Matthews said. "This is a blast, so much fun."

Her running partner, however, had done her share of five Army Ball Runs, having had an extended stay at the academy for double shoulder surgery.

"The fifth and final time … it's awesome as always," Braun said.

When Class of 2016 Marc Samland thought he only had about five or six miles left in him, he ran much further--even running in place for a bit while the convoy figured out a detour route around the heavy main road traffic.

"Once I started going I couldn't stop," Samland said. "It felt great and the countryside was beautiful. It's been great seeing people from these different states and just being out there is unique. Generally, people are supportive. I passed an older lady who was running and she was cheering me on. It was a great experience … fun."

No prizes could be awarded for most energetic on this overnight trip--they were equally prolific in storytelling, jokes and shop talk on running. Class of 2013 Cadet Johannes Olind argued the marathon is a perfect test of human endurance--just enough mileage to truly push the body to its limits. The ultramarathon runners in the van countered that theory, having found 50 miles to be just as rewarding an experience as a regular marathon. Hours earlier, faced with spine-shivering temperatures, Capt. Mark Davis, an instructor in the Department of Physical Education, provided a short discourse on cold-weather training--a lesson he just gave in class that day. With nothing to see but the runners illuminated by headlights for hours at a time, sometimes analysis was doled out on their particular gait, form and little quirks in movement. Even a hundred miles away from the academy, there are teaching opportunities.

Braun amused herself by teasing Class of 2015 Cadet Daniel Schlich, an underclassman, for being a machine on the road, but it's all good-natured. In Richmond, he placed 20th among a field of nearly 5,000--fifth in his age division with a 2:38 time. Likewise, Reyhan might encounter friendly flak for not being knowledgeable about classic rock, yet she's a rock star on the road after finishing first in Richmond for her age division with a time of 3:21:12. Juliano is mocked for being--of all things--too verbose when he admitted to overextending the word count on a research paper for which he received an A- grade.

Midshipman Tom Rowland would seem the perfect target for ridicule--being the sole runner from the exchange program with the U.S. Naval Academy--but, no. Midshipmen have long been welcomed onto the Marathon team for the semester they attend West Point and are treated no differently. However, the idea of handing over the Army football to a Navy runner does bring up conspiracy theories. Keeping the game ball secured at all times is serious business, and at one point Rowland faked a fumble, causing a mild eruption of shock inside the van. That wasn't as much concern as the way Juliano was clutching the game ball with one hand. Einfeldt yelled from inside the van for the freshman to cradle it properly.

Sitting up front in the van, Reyhan was the first to welcome runners back in and asked how they were feeling--like when Class of 2015 Cadet David Richardson recorded the most road time during the first leg of the run.

"I was having fun, and it was kind of motivating being out there with people cheering 'Go Army' out their windows," Richardson said.

Later, Olind and Class of 2013 Cadet Colin Chapman would go even further--running roughly 80 minutes before readily tagging out for the next pair. Each van had differing strategies for completing its leg of the run. Some ran in pairs, triplets and infrequently in larger groups; sometimes it would be a solo run to conserve the energy of others for longer distances.

There was never the mass gathering of onlookers like they experienced in downtown Philadelphia, but occasionally people outside a tavern or apartment complex had just enough time to catch sight of the spirit messages painted on the sides of the vans and realized what this convoy was all about. Making out the "Go Army, Beat Navy" motif on the windows, spectators had just enough time to frame the action on their camera phones. Sometimes, a guest runner would join them, like Col. Tom Kastner, the former officer-in-charge of the Marathon team, who met up with Einfeldt and Richardson for part of the run. Kastner retired from the Army after 30 years of service to the nation, last having served as the director of the dean's staff and professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at the U.S. Military Academy.

West Point Class of 1948 graduate Roger Conover enjoyed blasting Army fight songs on his car stereo. Conover has participated at least three times before and ran a quarter mile with Karn and Class of 2015 Cadet Ben Shields.

"He's in great shape," Karn said, impressed by this fit member of the Long Gray Line. "He talked for a little bit and told us it was nice to be able to come out and run with us."

"He was pretty serious when he said we have to beat Navy … with conviction," Shields said.
The team doesn't have many opportunities for overnight travel, let alone overnight distance running so the annual Ball Run allows them a full day to build camaraderie and team cohesion, mostly in the confines of a van.

"Well, we got to spend a lot of time together, and it has been a unique experience that no one else has," Maj. Sarah Wolberg, assistant officer-in-charge, said.

At times the journey seemed more than just about a football or even a football game. Part extreme team-building exercise and part goodwill tour, the marathoners proved to be exceptional at both. Every stopping point turned into an occasion to meet the public and represent the U.S. Military Academy.

At one fire station, a construction worker was eager to get a photo of him holding the game ball, but first got to know the cadets carrying the ball. They also received a warm reception at Reagent Chemical in Ringoes, N.J. The company has been hosting the Marathon team during their Army Ball Run since 2005. Greg Huljack, a human resource manager, was among the first to greet the marathoners outside the office building. He said everyone is familiar with the annual Army-Navy Game but in 2005 the Ball Run was something of a surprise to them.

"The route that they run just happens to pass this office and one day one of our employees happened to see them approaching," Huljack said. "So everybody went out and started cheering."

Just a day earlier, the Girls Scouts had been delivering their cookies in the area, so the runners were treated to some refreshments. Since that first year, the gathering has become like a homecoming, with lots of food to eat while reminiscing and introducing new faces. The walls, decorated with poster boards of past Ball Run photos, documents all the West Point Marathon teams over the years. Once, they organized an appearance by a 100-piece high school band to welcome the runners with Army songs. Huljack said it's a little ironic for him to be so supportive of the Army team when his own son is a U.S. Naval Academy graduate and marathon runner.

"But this has always been a good-spirited and honorable exchange," Huljack said.

The Marathon team had much praise for the seamless escort provided by state and local police through every county, township and borough across three states. When they could, the marathoners would stop and chat before presenting them with commemorative Army T-shirts. When they couldn't, a few waves and words of thanks got the message across.

A fire truck led the way at one point, bringing the runners to the King of Prussia Volunteer Fire Company, where a large crowd gathered to meet them. After speaking with the cadets, a few photos were taken with community members who then filled the team van with snacks for the remainder of the trip.

Maj. John Dvorak was clearly a happy runner as he completed nearly 20 miles at the end of the trip. "The adrenaline just carries you out there," Dvorak said, joined by the entire team at the end. "This is the part that makes it all worthwhile … bringing it home."

Dvorak was a member of the "Glory Van," the group of marathoners who ran the final stretch of road with most of the fanfare along the way. No matter how tired or cold, the entire team musters the energy for the grand entrance into the stadium.

"The last few miles were incredible. We were pumped up, it was great," Samland said. "The people, the energy the lights…it was great. That, and knowing we were almost at the end."

The team received miles of support from the Warriors Watch Riders, a national organization of veterans and military advocates who often attend unit deployment and redeployment ceremonies.

Among them was retired Command Sgt. Maj. James Shreve, a former senior enlisted Soldier at West Point. He offered some final words to the group at the end of their journey and congratulated them for proudly representing the Corps of Cadets and the Army.

"You did an awesome job and you didn't quit," Shreve said.

Shreve said he attended many class graduation ceremonies where the newly-commissioned officers receive their new rank. He was proud to serve with those graduates, and said he would gladly serve again with this team.

"Hearing from the sergeant major was probably one of the coolest things about this run," Class of 2014 Cadet Benjamin Huff said. "It kind of puts things in perspective. We're not just running the ball for the Army team. It's for the whole Army community, the United States and all Americans."

Page last updated Wed December 12th, 2012 at 08:27