LOUDONVILLE — Since the early 1980s, Betty Hardesty of Perrysville has carried on a local tradition by running down the sidelines carrying a Redbird flag every time the Loudonville High School football team scored a touchdown.
This season the tradition has ended. Betty now walks the flag down the sidelines, on doctor's orders. The reason: her bad knees.
Hardesty, a 1972 LHS graduate, started running the sidelines in the early 1980s.
"I'm not sure exactly what year, but I remember doing it when All-Ohioan Steve Weltmer was on the team, which was in the 1982-84 seasons," Hardesty said.
"At first, I carried a Redbird flag to the top of the stands, and waved it every touchdown," she remembered. "Then, in a game at Hillsdale, I saw a Hillsdale student running up and down the sidelines, waving a flag. The next game I just did it. People thought I was crazy, but as time went on, it became part of the game, and a tradition."
At home games, the tradition was pretty easy, as the sidelines between the field and the stands is a usually open track.
At some other stadiums, it is different, she said.
"In Danville, for instance, their field is right next to the stands," she said. "I remember one game there I was running the flag and had to jump over a kid who was lying on the ground near the edge of the field, and at other locations, I had to run around people."
When Hardesty started her tradition, she ran the flag a full 200 yards, from the middle of one end zone around the track to the middle of the other.
"We had one game, at home, when we scored 72 points, I think 11 touchdowns," she said. "I was pretty flagged out after that night."
"And we played once down at Columbus Ready," she added. "There was no space there on the sidelines, so I ran the flag across the front of the stands."
"I just always did it," Hardesty said.
"No one ever told me not to," she said. "But then this year, after running after touchdowns early in the season, my knees started bothering me, so I went to see my doctor, who told me not to run any more."
She is still at the games, with her flag, as Coach Kevin Maltarich has asked her to continue, walking if necessary.
Hardesty lives in Perrysville with her companion since the late 1990s, Penny Jahnke. She works at the Mohican Lodge as a housekeeper and room inspector. She has been there the past five years, and also worked there for 12 years earlier.
Her flag running has not been continuous, as she was out of the community for seven years, from 2007-2014, when she lived and worked first in Michigan and later in Elkhorn City, in Eastern Kentucky, living part of the time just across the border in Virginia.
"When we lived in Kentucky," she said, "we got the game on our computer over WZLP radio, and whenever the Redbirds scored I would run the flag around our house."
She has two grown children, Cecil Neighbarger, who lives in Flint, Michigan and has five children; and Karen Jenkins, who lives in Chilicothe and has three children.
She is the youngest of five children, all daughters, of the late Carl and Norma Hardesty of Loudonville.