In one of the strangest cases of purported religious beliefs intersecting with athletic performance, a Kentucky junior cross country runner voluntarily walked away from a chance to qualify for the state meet to avoid running with the bib number "666", which she said conflicted with her Christian beliefs.
As reported in depth by Lexington NBC affiliate LEX18, Whitley County High (Whitley County, Ky.) cross country runner Codie Thacker voluntarily forfeited her spot in a regional championship race after her coach drew bib No. 666 for the runner. Thacker and her coach argued that she should be allowed to switch her number, but race officials refused the request.
Those officials would later deny that Thacker claimed she needed to change bib numbers for religious reasons, though the junior insists she was explicit about her motivation. To her, running with the number 666 on her chest would have signified a serious breach in her faith.
"I didn't want to risk my relationship with God and try to take that number," Thacker told LEX18. "I told them to mark out my name because it makes me sick just thinking that my name is associated with that number."
The result was a third straight season when the cross country runner has fallen just short of the state meet, even though she had aggressively trained for the regional championship race since June. Thacker had hoped to earn headlines for her performance on the trails. Now she's getting attention for something else entirely.
Perhaps the only person who wasn't stunned by Thacker's exit from the regional meet was her coach, Gina Croley, who was the first person to see the number assigned to the runner.
"I saw it and I was like, 'whoa,'" she said. "I don't think she will wear that number."
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- Sports & Recreation
- cross country runner