Lynchburg, Va. -- One could say the Lynchburg cross country and track & field program has left its mark on the 2018-19 men's team.
Well, at least on eight of them.
That imprint will be front-and-center when the Lynchburg men's cross country team lines up for Saturday's Paul Short Run on Lehigh University's Goodman Campus. All you have to do is look on their thighs, where the 1980s-era Lynchburg Hornet logo is displayed prominently -- and permanently -- an unmistakable red and black tattoo.
Senior Tristan Lucy-Speidel (Fort Valley, Va.); juniors Shawn Gmurek (Parkton, Md.), Reid Sharkey (Fairfax, Va.); and sophomores Tyrell Armstrong (Perry Hall, Md.), Justin Dorner-Thomas (Raleigh, N.C.), Hunter Frizzell (Fredericksburg, Va.), Brandon Haag (Evington, Va.), and Andrew Johnson (Greencastle, Pa.) all sport the distinctive mark -- a hornet with a gritty expression, its six hands clenched in fists and ready to do battle.
Like many logos of the era, it is cartoonish and, to quote Frizzell, "terrible."
But emboldened by school spirit and inspired by an old basketball sideline chair bearing the logo, the group had joked about getting inked for years.
"It just seemed like this year, when it was brought up, it seemed different. There was an actual guts to go with it," Lucy-Speidel said.
And on the way home from the season's first meet at Appalachian State, they made the final decision: It was happening that weekend.
"It was a three-year buildup for a 10-second decision," Gmurek said.
So five of them found their ways to Jesse James Tattoo in downtown Lynchburg and presented the design to the artists.
Frizzell recalled the reaction vividly: "Are you sure this is what you want?"
Another interested party, head cross country coach Jake Reed, had a similar reaction.
"You idiots," Reed remembered saying. "What are your parents going to think?"
But Lucy-Speidel insisted his mother loved it, much to everyone's surprise. And once Reed considered the permanence of a tattoo, he decided it could be a good sign as well.
"You realize that they have bought into the culture," he said. "They do love what we're doing here, and they've embraced being a part of Lynchburg cross country and Lynchburg track & field."
Frizzell, a sophomore not far into a promising career -- he won the outdoor 800-meter conference championship as a freshman -- echoed that sentiment.
"We're a close group regardless. Obviously, it did bring us a little closer. It's just hilarious. .. But I feel like there's a deeper sense of team unity now," he said.
Each mark has its own characteristics. Sharkey's bears a red mustache; some of them have quirky eyes or color on the wings. Gmurek and Frizzell even named theirs (Howie and Jefe, respectively).
"It's something that will be on me forever no matter where I go, and it will always remind me of how great this team is," Gmurek said, "and how much dumb fun we have shared over the years."
The cross country team's lone senior parroted the program pride.
"You get pointed out for being an athlete, getting All-ODAC or all-region, Academic All-American, stuff like that," Lucy-Speidel said.
"I would say it's similar to those things -- you're doing it because you love it."