BASKING RIDGE, NJ -- In the course of a distinguished high school athletic career that was replete with accomplishments, there was one thing that was always missing for Basking Ridge's Chrissy Weyrauch.
The 2016 Ridge High School graduate won county and state championships in girls soccer, scored close to 1,000 points in her varsity basketball career, and had the backing of a supportive and close-knit family that attended every one of her games.
"There were so many big games and championships that I would look up into the bleachers and see my entire family, all my aunts, all my uncles and I remember just thinking in that state championship moment, I wish my grandfather was there, too," said Weyrauch, a junior English major at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass.
When she was 10 years old, Weyrauch lost her grandather, Robert Pankuck, to melanoma. Next month, Chrissy Weyrauch will be running in the Boston Marathon to raise funds and awareness for melanoma research. The race is April 15, and donations can be made to sponsor Weyrauch's run for IMPACT Melanoma, by clicking here.
"At 10 years old that was the first loss I ever experienced," Weyrauch said. "Our poppy was so healthy, so strong, like the leader of our family, and when we lost him it shook our whole family. He was just the healthiest person. He ate well, exercised, he was in such good shape, and all of a sudden he got melanoma and it deteriorated his health so quickly. It was a horrific battle, and he fought it so strongly and so bravely."
She never forgot the battle her grandfather waged.
"I read more about melanoma, learned more about it and realized that what this organization does is so impactful," she said. "Our whole family knows the importance of getting your skin checked. Melanoma took our grandfather away, and there have been so many moments over the years that I wish he was here for."
Weyrauch, a New Jersey All-State soccer player for the 2015 Group 4 state championship team at Ridge, stopped playing competitive sports shortly after she got to college, but the desire to continue training and working towards a goal remained with her.
"I fell in love with running when I started playing high school soccer when I was a freshman," said Weyrauch, whose two sisters (Alex and Sam) also played for championship teams at Ridge, and whose mother, Laurie, was part of Gov. Livingston High School's first state championship girls soccer team in Berkeley Heights. "I loved to run long distances in high school training for soccer, and then I got to college, I stopped playing soccer and a really fell in love with running long distances again. I find running long distances very therapeutic. I love just going for long runs with my headphones on. That helped me deal with not playing soccer anymore but still feeling like an athlete running. It's my favorite thing to do to work out."
In order to run in the Boston Marathon, one must either have a qualifying time, or choose to run on behalf of a particular organization. Because she had never run a marathon previously, Weyrauch's only option for entry was to affiliate herself with a cause. Her research led her to IMPACT Melanoma, and "I thought that was kind of perfect," she said.
Although this will be her first marathon, and although she's more than two-and-a-half years removed now from her last soccer game, Weyrauch is almost as passionate about the athletic element of running as she is about the cause for which she will be going the distance.
"When you give up a sport after you've spent the last 15 years of your life training for the next season, you definitely lose a little piece of your identity," she said. "For so many years, your identity was being an athlete, playing soccer and playing basketball, and then you reach (the end) and you feel like, 'Oh my God, what do I do right now?' So it was a big thing for me to continue running to keep in touch with that piece of me that does feel like an athlete. I find running to be very therapeutic, it definitely helped me through that phase of learning how to move on after soccer. I have loved training for this marathon again. It has motivated me; I feel like I'm training for something again. As an athlete you love to push yourself, and I have definitely pushed myself through this process.
"We have really enjoyed getting up early in the morning and going on those long runs together. It's been a great experience, I don't know if I would do it again anytime soon, because it is a lot of wear and tear on your body. The minute I cross the finish line, I know all the work I put in is going to be worth it."
And Chrissy Weyrauch is also resolute that the cause for which she is participating is more than merely worth it.
"Because I have red hair and freckles, which makes me a leading candidate to get skin cancer, I grew up educated on what skin cancer is, how you get it and how prevalent it is," she said. "But I think a lot of people don't have that education and that's what our organization aims to do. It doesn't matter how tan you are; anyone can get skin cancer."
But, she said, the survival rate with proper attention and prevention is very good.
"If you go get you skin checked, the survival rates for melanoma with early detection are drastically better; in that case you are most likely going to be fine," she said. "Our generation also needs to be educated on the horrors of tanning beds--how horrible they are for your skin. There's a direct correlation between tanning beds and skin cancer. Our organization also encourages the use of sun screen. You don't want to burn, and you want to get your skin checked."
To sponsor Weyrauch's participation in the marathon for IMPACT Melanoma, click here.