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Penn State Swimmer Ellie Tiskus To Celebrate Teammate At THON

Every THON dancer has a unique reason for committing to the annual 46-hour event. Penn State swimmer Ellie Tiskus is dancing for her teammate, Niki Nolte.

Nolte is a two-time cancer survivor who just recently returned to the pool for the first time in nearly 30 months. The junior’s journey has been a motivating factor for Tiskus and the rest of her team.

“As a part of the women’s swim and dive team, Niki has been a huge inspiration to all of us,” Tiskus said. “THON for me means the continuation of the #NikiStrong movement for our team.”

Nolte’s fascinating story will buoy Tiskus throughout the entirety of the weekend, but there is nothing quite like the emotion of Sunday afternoon. Tiskus has a unique chance to connect with the families who have been affected by cancer.

“I’m most excited for the final four,” Tiskus said. “I know that is the super emotional period of THON where you hear the personal experiences from families. Knowing Niki’s story and knowing what she went through, I will have a better understanding of what those families have gone through.”

The close-knit nature of the Penn State swimming and diving team has been evident through Tiskus’ fundraising process.

“I sent a message in our group, and within moments my team started donating,” Tiskus said. “I shared it on social media, and a lot of people that were fans of the swim and dive team or even family members associated with our team jumped on the fundraising. Within five days, I raised $1,500.”

Tiskus and the rest of Penn State’s swim team usually don’t get to experience THON due to it coinciding with the Big Ten championship meet, including last year. As a sophomore, Tiskus still hasn’t been able to witness THON in person; while it won’t be in person this year, she is ready to make the most of it.

“I was unable to experience THON in person [last year], but I had friends who went on and on about how amazing the experience was,” Tiskus said. “As much as I was really excited to be competing at the Big Tens, a part of me wished I could’ve been there to witness THON.”

This season, the Nittany Lions will be competing in Big Tens in Minneapolis from February 23 to 27, the week after THON. Tiskus won’t be competing due to roster caps, but she will still be racing in a Penn State invitational.

“I’m balancing trying to rest and get ready to race while also getting myself hyped up for THON,” Tiskus said. “The support of the women’s team is totally caring myself through. I get text messages every day from my teammates telling me they are so excited to see me dance, and I am so excited to see them compete at Big Tens. We feed off of that positive energy with each other.”

Tiskus will represent the Student-Athlete Advisory Board in this years’ event, alongside Penn State men’s hockey’s Adam Pilewicz, women’s lacrosse’s Rachel Rosen, and track and field star Danae Rivers. For her, it was never a doubt when she was offered the chance to dance.

“[Student-Athlete Advisory Board] sent out a message to see if anyone was interested in dancing. I was so surprised that they were looking for dancers because I know how much of a big deal it is to dance at THON,” Tiskus said.

“I figured this would be my only opportunity to do it since Big Tens is usually the week of THON,” Tiskus said. “I didn’t even think twice. I knew this would be an opportunity I would be so honored to take.”

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About the Author

Otis Lyons

Otis is a sophomore majoring in print journalism and is one of Onward State's associate editors. He lives just north of San Francisco, and is a diehard San Jose Earthquakes fan. Feel free to send over your soccer hot takes to his twitter @otisnlyons1 and instagram @otislyons

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