The meaning behind the cross country team’s tattoos

Every year before the start of the cross country season, alumni and current team members run together to see how the team has changed over time. It is, without a doubt, an inspiring moment for all who partake. Yet there’s something else that the naked eye cannot miss: their big, matching tattoos. The big “O,” as the Cross Country team calls it, has been a team tradition for almost 50 years. 

Starting in the 1970s, members of the team have proven their commitment by tattooing the big “O” on their right thighs. It is not uncommon for college cross country teams to have their own tattoos, David Stone ’20 said. Stone mentioned that in contrast to the other tattoos they encounter, the St. Olaf tattoo is quite unique for both its size and design. 

The location of the tattoo is something to talk about as well, as it has been placed strategically. It is located on the right thigh with the purpose of being spotted by the cameras and spectators as they are crossing the finish line. Most of the runners that sport the big “O” tattoo are either juniors or seniors. Benjamin Scott ’20 said the reason why it can mostly be seen on upperclassmen is that they have such a high level of commitment. 

It is all about commitment to the team. Meeting every day, the cross country team stands out among the rest of St. Olaf’s students. I believe we all have seen, or at least heard of the cafeteria table that day after day is occupied by the cross country team. After their practices, the team heads to the shower, gets dressed and has dinner together at the same table in the back, left part of Stav. With only two rules (you sit where you sit and no cellphones), having dinner together and seeing each other after practice strengthens the bonds of friendship and camaraderie among team members.

Not just a place for running, the cross country team represents a place where friends are found, where some learn what being part of a team means and where others live some of the greatest moments and most significant experiences of their college life. They push each other to be better day after day and work as a great support system. There’s no doubt why some of the members would make the decision to get that tattoo. They are not just teammates, they have become life-long friends with a passion to run (and matching tattoos).