Susan Worden Hemphill has translated the discipline she learned from Cross Country into a career in helping others. After stops at United Way of Central Oklahoma and University of Oklahoma Health Services Center, she now works with the development team for NewView Oklahoma, a non-profit organization that provides services for the blind and visually impaired. She spoke this week with LipscombSports.com about getting married, sleep talking on a team road trip, and the surprising color of warm-ups provided by one Lipscomb coach.
What years did you compete for Lipscomb?
I ran Track and Cross Country for Clay Nicks (two years) and Karen Robichaud (two years) from 2003-07.
Tell us about your education.
I came to Lipscomb from my home in Edmond, Oklahoma and graduated four years later with a B.S. in Exercise Science. Since then I have added a Certificate in Public Health (2010) from University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and a Master of Education degree from University of Central Oklahoma (2012).
Why did you attend Lipscomb?
Two factors influenced my decision at the time. First, at my senior awards day in high school I realized all my high school friends had made their college choices, but I hadn’t. So that night I just said, ‘I’m gonna go to Lipscomb.’ There were several good schools closer to home my parents thought I might attend, but to me Lipscomb seemed the best choice for me at that time.
The other deciding factors were Nashville and the Lipscomb campus. When I had an opportunity to visit, I was completely sold. During my visit I met several future teammates, including one who is still one of my closest friends, Ruth Mick (Mischler). That day she told my Dad and me about how she got locked in the library because she didn’t realize that when they flash the lights, it means ‘Get out, they’re closing.’ That’s a great lesson to learn.
The decision to go to college so far from Edmond was kind of random, but I’m convinced it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I got to run on an NCAA Division I team, and that was a big deal for me. My freshman year was Lipscomb’s first in the Atlantic Sun Conference.
It’s now clear to me that God had a hand in it all along – he knew what was best for me. Being at Lipscomb helped me grow so much. When I first got there, I was super quiet and super shy, but Lipscomb helped bring me out of my ‘shell.’ I got to connect with so many amazing, incredible people who became lifelong friends.
What is your favorite athletic memory at Lipscomb?
Team road trips in general are my favorite athletic memories from Lipscomb. The time teams spend on the road together provides great opportunities to get to know each other well, and for good groups – like ours – those are fun times.
I’ll never forget one night on a road trip when I was assigned to room with Elizabeth Schall (Norte) my freshman year before I really knew her. In the middle of the night we were both sound asleep. Suddenly she rolled over, smacked her lips and said, “Umm, chocolate, chocolate, chocolate!” and went right back to sleep. I had no idea what she was dreaming about at that time, but I later learned how she loves food and it made perfect sense. That memory has stuck with me as a great example of good, everyday memories that occur when you spend time with good people. Lipscomb provided that for me – it allowed me to find myself surrounded by really good teammates and coaches.
Who influenced your athletic career at Lipscomb?
My coaches, Clay Nicks and Karen Robichaud and assistant Jonathan Eckberg, were the strongest influences. They made a powerful impression on me, and we all knew they cared about us for far more than a coach/student-athlete relationship. Karen, especially, was really a blessing to me.
My teammates were a tremendous influence on me also. Ruth was a huge source of support for me and the best teammate and friend I could ever ask for. Samantha Wood was my partner in crime. Sam and I were co-captains my senior year, and she even wrote a binding contract between our coaches and us specifically outlining our roles. Although most of them were silly, I am pretty sure we even convinced our coaches to sign the contract.
What’s your favorite non-athletic memory from your time here?
All of my memories seem to revolve around my teammates, but in my junior year Coach Robichaud – for some reason – thought the girls would really like light pink warm-up suits. She was thinking of us, especially of the senior girls, and she presented us these incredible pink sweat suits she thought we would love. We immediately began to call them our ‘bunny suits.’ We wore them to dinner that first night and we had a blast, but I’m not sure we wore them ever again – maybe the tops or the pants separately, but never together.
What did you learn in your time on campus?
The first lesson is an obvious one that anyone with a career has learned: ‘timing is everything.’ But in addition, all students – and especially student-athletes – must learn about managing time effectively. It’s hard to tell a high school student what to expect about the time demands of a DI athlete, but it’s so important to balance practice and competition and academics and social life. My teammates helped a lot, because honestly, we were all kind of nerdy. But it worked in our favor: my sophomore year we earned the highest G.P.A. in the nation for Women’s Cross Country.
For me, college – and specifically college at Lipscomb – was a transformational time, growing into an adult. It was a powerful time for me spiritually, and I think it was really good for me being away because I was such a home-body. Moving to Nashville taught me to rely on others and to be vulnerable and honest with my friends, which helped to develop lifelong relationships. The spiritual growth was also something I will always be grateful for and appreciate.
Who were your favorite professors?
Most of my favorites taught me in the Exercise Science program – Dr. Kent Johnson, Dr. Ruth Henry, Coach Lynn Griffith. I also enjoyed a Bible teacher I took for several courses, Dr. Jim Morgan, who had a great way to connect with college students. At the time, “Gilmore Girls” was popular, and on every test he would include a bonus question, “What’s the G.G. factor?” It was a great blend of Bible and current events, and I thought it was very smart.
I also really enjoyed Dr. Lin Garner’s English class. She really encouraged me in my writing, and she was also someone I really looked up to in the Athletic Department.
Tell us about your family:
My husband, Matthew, and I were married October 24, 2015, and I’m very proud of him. He is driving a school bus and preparing to complete his degree in Computer Science from University of Central Oklahoma. We both enjoy outdoor activities – hiking and mountain biking – and we have one dog, Winston.
- Favorite food: Pizza, especially Hideaway Pizza in Edmond
- Favorite scripture: Proverbs 3: 5-6 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
- Favorite TV show or movie: “Sister Act”
- Favorite sports team: Oklahoma City Thunder
- Favorite season: Spring
- Pick one – salad or dessert: Dessert
- Favorite vacation spot: Anywhere in the mountains
- Early morning or late night person? Probably early morning
If you want to contact Susan, you can reach her by email: firstname.lastname@example.org