With just a week left before the start guns officially announce the running of the 4th Annual Arbuckles to Ardmore Race for Mercy, the countdown has begun.

Pre-race excitement is in the air as A2A runners and volunteers pick up the pace. And nowhere is that excitement more evident than at Mercy Ardmore where employees are gearing up to run, walk, participate in the accompanying race health expo, volunteer in countless ways and become cheerleaders.

Cheerleaders? Really? Yes, that's not a typo or some kind of subconscious faux pas. Mercy cheerleaders will be at Noble Stadium, in uniforms, screaming cheers of encouragement with pom poms pumping as runners race for the finish line.

Why? Because Mercy employees know first hand what an important role the A2A plays in support of the new Cancer Center. (Proceeds from the race are earmarked for the purchase of equipment.)

Since spirit teams were being sought by A2A officials, the idea of actual cheerleaders appeared to be a natural choice for Mercy employees who weren't running or already engaged in other A2A volunteer activities.

The result? Mercy Thunder, Mercy Pit Crew and Mercy Megaphone Maniacs.

"The team leaders volunteered and actively recruited co-workers by holding spirited appearances in the cafeteria and other areas of the hospital campus," said Sara Donaho-Jones, Mercy Senior Marketing and Media Relations Specialist, adding the squads have put a lot of thought into uniforms, cheers and ways to show the A2A spirit on race day.

Joan Lankford, Mercy Manager Radiation Oncology and captain of the Mercy Pit Crew, recently talked about the creation of the squad.

Q: How did you decide on the name of your squad?

A: We searched the internet to see what kind of themes have been used at other marathons. We decided on Mercy Pit Crew because is goes with the whole 'race' idea and we could create uniforms, theme, etc along with the name.

Q: Do you have special cheers?

A: We're working on that and we're hoping that some local cheerleaders will help us out.

Q: Does the Mercy Pit Crew have any secret weapons?

A: Andre Moore????

Q: What do you hope to bring to the overall atmosphere of the A2A?

A: A time of fun and celebration for all of the runners. A sense of teamwork and gratitude from Mercy co-workers.

Are volunteer opportunities still open for those who want to join in the excitement and support the A2A which has garnered national attention?

"We could use a few more to help as course marshals and to direct parking," A2A Founder and Race Director Alison Smalley said Friday. "And, of course, we would love to have spectators to cheer and create a festive atmosphere both along the course and especially at the stadium.

To volunteer register at www.a2amarathon.com.