May 30, 2006
When Ruth Mick was a little girl her mother often encouraged her to go out and play in the dirt.
That fascination with the soil led to her Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science which was awarded May 6. But as Mick got older she discovered she liked running on dirt as well, excelling in both cross country and distance running in track.
"I've always loved running," said Mick. "When I was in middle school I played softball and soccer, but the most fun for me was running the bases or running up and down the field in soccer. I couldn't really coordinate my hands, my feet and the equipment. I just liked running around.
"I really like track a lot, but I love cross country. In cross country you are out in the woods and running in nature. That is a huge part of why I like it. Track is more fragmented. It is like a circus at times with so many things going on at one time."
Mick started running in the fourth grade in physical education classes. In the fifth grade her science teacher started a club team and Mick participated in Junior Olympic events.
"I actually wasn't very good when I was younger," said Mick. "I stuck with it and got better and better as I went along.
"I always wanted to keep on taking it to the next level. In high school I knew I wanted to run for a Division I school. That was a goal that I had. It was a matter of sticking with it and training harder and getting better every year."
There have been a lot of miles between that shaky start and her college career.
On May 26 Mick became the first member of the Lipscomb University track team to compete in an NCAA Regional when she ran in the 800 meters in Knoxville, Tenn. at the Mideast Regional at the University of Tennessee. Her time of 2:26.43 was not what she wanted but she leaves the program with a number of school records including a 2:15.20 in the 800-meter run, the top time at the 2006 Atlantic Sun Conference Championships; a steeplechase mark of 11:05.80 at the 2006 Vanderbilt Invitational; and a cross country time of 18:04 in the 2005 Atlantic Sun Conference Championships. Her sixth place finish earned her a spot on the 2005 Atlantic Sun All-Conference Team.
Mick would not have expected anything less. She closed out her high school career as the Pennsylvania State Champion in the 400 meters and came to Lipscomb with high expectations. Despite her desire to be better each year she was less than pleased with her first year of competition for Lipscomb.
"I felt like I could do better, but it just wasn't coming together," said Mick. "I wasn't running the times I had run in high school. But I was more consistent. Sometimes with running you are building a base. You are not going to see the fruition of all of your work until the end."
She points to abilities to persevere and remain positive as two major reasons for her success.
"A lot of it is just sticking with it and keeping on going even when you don't feel like it," said Mick. "You can get really negative as a runner. Running is really mental. If you start feeling bad you can start thinking I feel awful, there are so many people ahead of me, or it is so hot and then you just beat yourself up. I've always been a positive and cheerful person."
Karen Robichaud, the cross country and track coach at Lipscomb, has coached hundreds of athletes, but she rates Mick as the leader in positive thinking.
"She showed up everyday at practice ready to work and wanting to honor God with a 100 percent effort," said Robichaud. "A lot of athletes are gamers. On race day they are there. But Ruth was very much an anomaly. She exerted that type of spirit into every workout.
"She has a will to win and a warrior's heart. Though she is maybe one of the sweetest, kindest, friendliest and most nurturing individuals on the Lipscomb campus she really likes to beat you on race days. She feels like she glorifies God the most by excelling on the track, in the classroom and in Bible studies."
Robichaud also pointed to Mick's diversity as a runner as a rare trait.
"She won the Pennsylvania State Championship in the 400 as a young athlete, and then became so competitive in cross country and in the 800 meters," said Robichaud. "Those use totally different muscle fibers and totally different mindsets and strategies. And then she is also one of the top steeplechasers in Tennessee, if not the Southeast."
Mick, who lives in Zelienople Pa., a town of approximately 2,000, was given more than a love of the outdoors through her family life. She also developed a positive attitude that has served her well in all aspects of her life. When she competes, especially in cross country, she talks to herself constantly.
"I have phrases that I say to myself," said Mick. "They are different for cross country and track. There are points in races where you have to give yourself words of encouragement. In cross country I may say to myself that I going to power up this hill or in track I might say to myself that I am going to slingshot out of a turn and it will propel me forward. It is matter of keeping your focus and telling yourself that you can keep on going."
At the Mideast Regional Mick was on her own, a prospect she didn't relish. While it would appear that someone involved in distance running would prefer the solitary life, Mick thrived around her teammates, drawing energy from them and, in turn, providing her support for their efforts.
"The team support helps you an awfully lot," said Mick. "It really helps you keep going. I can't imagine cross country without the team. You can't do it on your own. It would wear you out. In a race you know your teammates are there with you even though sometimes you can't even see them. Most of the encouragement happens in practice or before a race."
Mick performed equally as well in the classroom. She was named the female winner of the James R. Byers Award, the highest award given annually to a Lipscomb athlete for excellence on the field, in the classroom and in their Christian life. She has also been a three-time member of the Atlantic Sun All-Academic Cross Country Team and was a member of the All-Academic NCAA Division I Cross Country Team that posted the highest grade point average in the nation in 2005.
.Mick plans to start playing in the dirt again, this time for money.
"I'm thinking about agricultural missions and conservation and restoration such as bringing waste sites back," said Mick. "I started studying soil because it fascinates me. It seems so simple, but what amazes me is the importance of it. There are all of the nutrients. It is what we walk on and what we build on. It is how crops are grown. I think it goes back to Genesis with me when man was created from dust. It is part of our history."
Just as Ruth Mick will always be a part of the history of the Lipscomb athletic department.