The story behind the ink

By The Beacon | November 7, 2012 9:00pm

Senior Aiden Irish (Giovanna Solano | THE BEACON)

By Taylor Tobin, Staff Writer

Our athletes are disciplined. Our athletes are competitive. Our athletes are tough. Some of our athletes are even inked.

That's right, underneath all of that sweat, you can see what is important to our athletes by the designs and words tattooed on their skin.

Many of the Pilots with tattoos are cross country runners.

Junior cross country runner David Perry has four tattoos.

"Runners have a fascination with pain, because our whole sport hurts when we race. It's a weird process, because it hurts so bad, but once it's done it's beautiful and something you have for the rest of your life. It's kind of like a race, but you get to keep it," Perry said. "And I guess we're not wearing a lot of clothes, so you can see them for the majority of the time."

Perry's favorite tattoo is the Ferrari horse on his forearm. On either side of the horse are his uncle's initials. Four years ago, Perry's uncle passed away, and he got the tattoo in remembrance of him.

Junior cross country runner Stephen Kersh shows off his thigh tattoo when he wears running shorts. His tattoo is a line from William Blake's, "Auguries of Innocence." It reads "And eternity in an hour."

"It's something my dad always used to say to me and my brother when we were growing up," Kersh said. "This is the most time I've spent away from my family, so I just wanted something that connected me with them."

Another UP athlete whose tattoos represent his family background is junior basketball player Korey Thieleke.

Thieleke's family, especially his grandparents who helped raise him, is a big part of his life. One of his nine tattoos actually reads, "Family." Thieleke says his tattoos are so much a part of him that at times he forgets he has them until people make comments.

"Old ladies in the Cove line will be like, 'Oh my gosh I like your family tattoo,'" Thieleke said.

Some of Thieleke's first tattoos were his four Chinese symbols on his forearms, two on each arm. They mean "patience," "blessed," "respect," and "loyalty."

"I choose these in high school. It was a family decision, my mom and brothers helped me choose them," Theileke said. "Drawing them out, I liked these the most."

Thieleke drew his Chinese symbols as well as the clowns on his right shoulder that represent the phrase, "Laugh now, cry later."

"It's what we lived by growing up," Thieleke said. "Live life to the fullest while you're young, regret bad decisions and cry about it later."

The men's soccer team is less known for having tattoos, only two players have them: senior defensive player Marc Tonkel and sophomore defensive player Alex Gatewood.

Gatewood explains that in sports like cross country and basketball, athletes are allowed to have their tattoos show, but in men's soccer they are not.

"Our program wants to have more of a clean cut look," Gatewood said. "We're not allowed to have any sleeves on our arms or anything."

Gatewood has three tattoos that you cannot see when he's in his soccer uniform. His tattoos represent his Germanic and Northern European heritage. Gatewood has the tree, called Yggdrasil, and stags on his calf that represent his family's heritage.

"My brother and I are into learning about where our family came from," Gatewood said. "The tree and animals each represent something different in Norse mythology and my life."

Gatewood got his first tattoo, a Norse rune on his thigh meaning his name, on his 18th birthday.

"I just always thought tattoos were the coolest thing. I wanted to get one for my birthday, so I got one," Gatewood said. "Besides the family background, that was really the main reason."

It's not only guys who are inked, but there are some tough women athletes who have tattoos, too. Freshman soccer midfielder Shelby Vaver has two tattoos.

Her first tattoo is a Celtic knot on the back of her neck that represents her family and her Celtic Scottish heritage.

"I got it for my 18th birthday," Vaver said. "It's special to me because my mom took me to get it."

Her other tattoo is a dream catcher on her rib cage.

"When I was little, my grandfather told me the story about the dream catcher and how it protects you," Vaver said. "I got it to symbolize him, as well as protection."

Shelby says she likes to show her passion of soccer on the field and her other passions on her body through her tattoos.

"I think there is a connection between showing your passion on the field and showing your passion by portraying your inner self to others," Vaver said.

Junior David Perry (Giovanna Solano | THE BEACON)

Junior Korey Thieleke’s Chinese symbols (Giovanna Solano | THE BEACON)

Thieleke’s “Cali Bred” (Giovanna Solano | THE BEACON)

Junior Alex Gatewood (Giovanna Solano | THE BEACON)

Junior Korey Thieleke’s dragon tattoo (Giovanna Solano | THE BEACON)

Thieleke’s “Laugh Now, Cry Later” (Giovanna Solano | THE BEACON)

Junior Alex Gatewood (Giovanna Solano | THE BEACON)

Freshman Shelby Vaver (Giovanna Solano | THE BEACON)