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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Steinke runs into the record books

< winning the NCAA Central Regional Championships in Women’s Cross-Country her junior year, Ruth Steinke felt proud, but slightly out of place among the other top finishers at the trophy ceremony. “I was standing up there, and there were all these other girls, and they were saying ‘she hasn’t lost a race!,’ or ‘she’s a two time regional champion!’And then they got to me, and they said, ‘she’s trying to improve on her 88th place finish last year!’ I thought, ‘okay, well, I guess there’s only going upwards from here.’”

Steinke, who started running in the sixth grade, always had some natural talent for running, but was never a front-runner until her junior year of college. “All through high school I was never All-State or anything like that; I didn’t even get to state one of the years,” said Steinke. “I was just one of the people that was training with the top group, and my training always showed more than my racing.” This disciplined mentality to train hard came in handy when Steinke transitioned to college running. The Women’s Cross-Country and Track coach, Donna Ricks, focuses her training program on “immense improvement” from the high school to the college level.

“You do have to do things that you don’t want to do,” said Steinke, “but never things that will tear you down rather than build you up. Donna’s been really good at teaching the difference.”

One of the hardest parts of running in college for Steinke has been balancing athletics with the intense Carleton workload. While recounting experiences from her Sophomore year, when trouble balancing academics and running led to poor mental health, Steinke said, “I’ve had to make some distinct choices of: here are the big rocks in my life; I can’t have a whole bunch of little tiny ones.” Steinke notes that her coaches and teammates were essential in helping her through this time. “[They] helped me realized that it’s okay to say no to some things that you love and to put them to the side […] in order to make the most of the other things that you love. It’s hard not to see it sometimes as a loss, but I think I’ve learned it’s more of a gain.”

It is due to this intense change in training, and her disciplined mentality, that Steinke has won multiple All-America awards in Cross-Country and Track. Recently, at NCAA Track and Field Indoor Nationals, Steinke placed second in the 5000 meters and fifth in the 3000. To earn these honors,  she placed in the top 35 in the nation for Cross-Country, and in the top 8 in the nation for any given track race. Steinke received her first All-America award her junior year during the national Cross-Country meet.

“That was really a big surprise and really special,” said Steinke, recalling race day.  “I just remember people from our team, our family, the coaches, […] the looks on their faces as I passed by and the things they were saying. My sister was crying on the sidelines before I even finished, saying, ‘Ruth, you’re 4th, what?’”

But for Steinke, running has never been just about winning races. Rather, running is about enjoying something she loves. To describe her immense love for running, Steinke quotes one of her favorite runners, Eric Liddell, in saying: “I feel his pleasure when I run. I feel God’s pleasure, and the joy […] of doing something that [He] created [me] to do and to love and to be good at; it’s just enjoyable on both ends.”

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