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Men’s & Women’s Soccer Go Dancing At THON 2023

Penn State women’s soccer player Devon Olive and men’s soccer players Owen Elliott and Sean Bettenhausen are this year’s teammates to dance in THON 2023 and represent the soccer programs and the Student-Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB).

For seniors Olive and Elliott, their freshman year THON experiences were shaped by their teammates who were on the floor. They both saw how happy their dancer teammates were with visits, and it was inspiring to them. Olive talked about how happy her teammates were when they saw her walk in to visit after they had already been dancing for more than 24 hours. Those teammates are what inspired her to dance in her final semester at Penn State.

“I’m just super pumped to represent women’s soccer at THON because I hope to be an inspiration for the people below me now,” she said during THON. “The reason why I dance is because someone above me did, so I hope we can continue to do that.”

Outreach has been a huge part of the men’s soccer program for years, with the annual Mack Brady Match and soccer clinic, as well as the events held benefitting THON.

“From the water gun fights to playing soccer with these little kids, it’s just been awesome. They’re pushing us through every step of the way,” said Bettenhausen.

As a representative of the SAAB, the impact student-athletes have on the kids is huge for Elliott. Representing Penn State Athletics on this scale is really special and that, paired with a personal connection to the cause, inspired Elliott to dance.

“I’ve also had, not childhood cancer, but relatives who have had cancer, and it holds a close place in my heart, which is why I wanted to do it,” Elliott said.

The three of them have been huge motivators for each other throughout THON Weekend, and their pre-existing bond allowed them to really be in tune with each other. Being on the same wavelength has given them exactly what they needed — people that understand what they’re feeling. Having that shoulder to lean on is crucial.

Olive, Elliott, and Bettenhausen all echoed that whenever they needed some time to decompress, they’d put on their headphones, take a lap, and the others would give a nod of acknowledgment, telling them ‘We’re looking out for you.’

There’s comfort in the fact that there are over 700 dancers going through the 46 hours with them. Support from their teammates, spectators in the stands, and special messages from friends and family fuel them, even through the hard stretches. Their Dancer Relations committee members have also played a huge role in supporting Olive, Elliott, and Bettenhausen on the floor.

“I’ve been getting tips every five seconds if need be for how I can do things to better myself,” said Olive. “I also think that when I see people walk in the BJC from outside, my eyes immediately light up even if I was feeling tired at that moment, then I’m not anymore because I know they’re here to support me.”

Aside from the moral support, the high-energy atmosphere of THON powers them through. The event topping off their excitement levels? Pep Rally. Last year, men’s soccer took the Pep Rally crown, and the team was prepared to bring back a redemption performance.

“One word. Repeat,” said Bettenhausen, to which Olive replied, “They’ve been running their mouths all weekend… You will not be disappointed, I promise you.”

Of course, since talking to them, we now know men’s soccer didn’t win. Women’s lacrosse was crowned champions of the Pep Rally, unseating the reigning champs. Although neither team took home the crown, they rocked their performances and sure looked like they were having fun.

But in the end, the three soccer stars are dancing For The Kids, and they hope that men’s and women’s soccer can continue dancing for all the THONs of the future.

“Helping in the smallest way can make a big impact on anyone else in the world so whatever we can do to support this great cause is awesome,” said Bettenhausen.

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About the Author

Mackenna Yount

Mackenna is a junior food science major from Manitou Springs, Colorado, and is one of Onward State's associate editors. She loves food, is addicted to coffee, and can give you random facts or bad jokes that you didn't ask for. Ask her to bake gluten-free goodies so she has an excuse to try out new cupcake flavors. Mackenna can be contacted via Twitter @mackennayount (especially if you want to show off your best dad jokes) or you can shoot her an email at [email protected].

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