In Conversation: Ruthie Haworth and Abigail Naveh

“It just keeps going. There is just so much more to do.”

Ruthie Haworth crossing the finish line, earning her first place in PIAA District 10 championships.

(Greg Barnhisel)

Ruthie Haworth crossing the finish line, earning her first place in PIAA District 10 championships.

As a freshman, I joined the Allderdice cross country team with high aspirations for both the team and myself. Little did I know, I would be on varsity with one of the fastest cross country runners on the girls’ team in Allderdice history. The season began and I met Ruthie Haworth. She was generous with her advice and encouragement, always pushing me to strive for my best. At times, when I told myself I could not do it, Haworth was there to remind me that I could. As the season came to a close, I had the opportunity to sit down with her to discuss how she became so successful in her cross-country career. After the interview, all I could think was, “Not only do I want to run like this one day but I am inspired to do so”.

 

AN: Thank you so much for sitting down with me. First, can you introduce yourself?

RH: I’m Ruthie Haworth. I’m a junior in High School at Allderdice. I have been on the Allderdice cross country team for one season, and I am going to do track in the spring.

AN: Okay, so what got you into cross country in the first place?

RH: In my eighth grade year, I was on the crew team and I was really bad at crew. But the one part that I was good at was running because during practices we erged and we also ran. I could keep up with people while running. When I was going into my freshman year of high school, everyone was still doing crew, but I quit and I wanted to be on a team sport and to be committed to something, so I decided to start doing cross country. In August of my freshman year of high school, I began running cross country.

AN: So, what was it like switching schools and joining the Allderdice cross country team?

RH: It was a really big decision. I actually transferred to Allderdice to be on the cross country team. That was the main factor.

AN: Really? I didn’t know that.

RH: Yeah. I live really close to Allderdice, and I wanted to stay in the neighborhood for the rest of my high school time. I also just really wanted to take cross country more competitively. Because at CAPA we did not go to invitationals, I had no opportunity to get good at running because we only went to city meets. Also, there was no training regime like there is at Allderdice. I kind of just had to run by myself. I had seen the Dice cross country team the past two years when I went to city meets, and I knew that it would be super good if I went. I also knew that I had the potential to be really good at cross country. 

AN: Okay, so what/who do you attribute your vast improvement to between last season and this season? I know you improved a lot in the past year.

RH: Yeah, my personal record sophomore year was 22:40, and this year it is 19:24. The training and the running technique, the practices of the Allderdice team are definitely how I have improved. And it is more than just the running that we do: being able to compare myself to other people on the team is how I got better. Seeing that there were people I could beat and really understanding cross country-not just in terms of myself but in relation to how good I could get. I didn’t even know that states were a thing last year. The fact that I got to go this year, and know what my goals should only come with being on a team with people to compete with and mentors. All of the senior guys on the team are also the reasons I got good, thanks to all of their advice.

AN: How about the coaching? How has that affected you?

RH: That has made all the difference. Having someone tell me what to do and tell me what my goals should be. Even though Flynn takes a more relaxed coaching method his presence and having his expertise is so comforting. 

AN: It’s ridiculous the amount of experience and knowledge he has not only for the sport but also the help he can give to us.

RN: Yeah, forty years of experience. There’s always somebody to ask, which makes all the difference because I don’t have to worry about anything at races besides my own race. I don’t have to worry about signing up or anything. It is all figured out for me. 

AN: Yeah, definitely. When one says “team sport”, cross country is not likely what first comes to mind. It is a very individual sport in terms of when you are running. However, what do you think makes it a team sport? Being on the team-I really think it is such a huge team sport. 

RN: Actually, I think-I love how in cross country the only person that is in charge of how good you do is yourself (as opposed to in a team sport, like soccer, where you are actually really relying on other people)-

AN: Dependency.

RH: Yeah, dependent on other people. It is different because you aren’t relying on other people to make you do well. Nonetheless, other people on the team do make you better. When I am running the race having people on the sidelines to cheer for me-

AN: It’s a huge thing. 

RN: It makes all the difference. I did not have that freshman or sophomore year at CAPA. Now I have people afterward to talk about the race to, to give me advice on what my first mile should be, to tell me what my splits* should be. When I am running I think about the team. I don’t just think about myself. I give myself motivation by thinking to myself, “I am running for the team, you need to do well for the team, there are people depending on me to run well”. That is what I think makes it a team sport. 

AN: Yeah, I think you are one-hundred percent right. So, what has been your favorite part of being on the team this year in general?

RH: I have never done it before. I have been watching it happen. I have seen the Allderdice team for two years and I was never a part of it and getting to see what it was like to be on a competitive cross country team, I have loved every second of it. Having older seniors to look up to, and also having underclassmen who also ask me for advice-

AN: Yeah, because I’m a freshman this year, so coming in I had never been on a team like this. Then watching you run and thinking, “Wow, I want to be able to do that when I am big and strong”. 

RH: After the race when you have done well and you get to talk to the whole team about it and everyone’s high fiving you and everyone’s proud of you there’s nothing like it.

AN: There is no better feeling. 

RH: There is no better feeling. 

AN: You did something amazing and insane this year: you broke the record and became the fastest runner on the girls’ team on our city course in Allderdice history with a time of 19:24. What does it feel like to hold a title like that? 

RH: I can’t even comprehend it. I don’t even know what to think about that. Part of me doesn’t believe it: there must have been somebody that has run that faster than me! It is really cool. That is basically all I have to say. It is just super cool because I came to Dice, and I thought, “I just hope that maybe one day I will get to be top three on the girls’ team” and now-

AN: You are one of the best of all time. I remember after you did that, (I did not finish until a bit after you) I thought to myself, “How does she do that?” A six-minute and fifteen-second average mile is insane.

RH: I cried after the race was over. I was so happy. Also, there was nobody that I was racing against. The next person that came in after me was two minutes behind me. The entire race I was running it by myself. It took so much personal motivation to just keep going. I could not slow down if I wanted to beat the record. I had told my teammates on the sidelines in advance that I had to get to this time if I wanted to beat the record. I was coming around the curve, and one of them was screaming at me saying, “You can get there but you have to run fast, you have to pick up the pace, you’re so close”. I thought, “Oh my god I could actually do this. There’s a chance I could actually do this right now, not my senior year but my junior year”. I sprinted for the last 300 meters, and then, as I was finishing, no one was cheering. I thought I missed it because no one was cheering and that I would settle for third of all time this year. Then, I saw the time and I thought, “Oh my god”. I finished and started crying. It was so crazy.

AN: It is amazing. How has your cross country season success affected your life overall?

RH: It gives me confidence to know there is something I am really good at and something I am really committed to. It is a driving factor. I am looking forward to the next cross country season. I am looking forward to track. I love the sport, and it is fun to do the sport, but being good at the sport makes it that much better.

AN: When you tell people about it, they say, “Oh my god. How do you do that?”. It is something you can be proud of yourself about. 

RH: Yeah, it gives me a lifestyle: going to practice after school every day, running during the off-season, and training with the rest of the team during the off-season. This summer I will definitely do a running intensive somewhere. There is always something to look forward to. This is probably the biggest change in my life. 

AN: Running genuinely makes me-and I am sure you as well-happy. It makes you feel so good.

RH: Yeah. 

AN: You recently ran at state championships and got 26th place in the AAA school division. As I already mentioned, you are the fastest girl in Allderdice history on the city course. As a teammate of yours, it seems that you never let your emotions rule your life. When you finish a race you are always centered. How do you stay that way?

RH: I haven’t really thought about that. I actually went through a phase of this season when I really struggled before races to keep control of my anxiety before a race. Racing anxiety is a very real thing.

AN: It’s horrible.

RH: It’s a very real thing. I had tendonitis for a little while during the season and the next two or three races after I had terrible pre-race anxiety. I thought, “I can’t do it, I am never going to get to the place I was before”. Then, I didn’t do as well (partially because of my injury, but more so because mentally I did not believe in myself). During the race I was always telling myself that I had to slow down, that I could not go as fast, that I could not stay with the front group. I was able to get back to a place of confidence to run well but having the confidence to do that takes time. I think that is the biggest advantage I had throughout the season.

AN: Yeah. On a different note, our world cares more about male sports and men’s records typically. I have two questions. One, have you ever been underestimated due to the fact that you are female. Two, what do you think about this masculine-driven sports culture?

RH: I do notice it. It is definitely very real. It is more the internalization that bothers me than the general feeling [societally]. Internally, I know I am good. But I got 26th place at states and the senior guy got 25th. Even though it is one place away from 25th, I thought to myself, “It must be so much harder for him to get 25th, even though we basically got the same place, but just because the ‘varsity guys race’.”

AN: The title of it.

RH: Yeah the title, and the internalized feeling that men’s sports are more difficult than women’s sports can make me devalue my skill in cross country. I think to myself, “It means more than he did that, it is harder, it is more of an accomplishment. If I got 25th in states it doesn’t matter as much.”

AN: I would like to mention that your personal record time is faster than a lot of boys on our team, so you are definitely crushing it.

RH: Yeah. I know that internalized feeling is not true, but getting over the feeling that my skills do not matter as much because I’m a girl is hard.

AN: It is something that society tells us. It is hard to get it out of our heads once it is implanted there. So, it is really incredible to watch you break records and succeed. As a teammate and underclassman, you have also been incredible at giving me advice. What advice would you give me and other underclassmen for next year if we want to get to where you are?

RH: Oh my gosh. I always have so much to say to underclassmen. My advice is unlimited. I think being able to believe in your potential is the most important thing. Everybody says that running is a mental sport and that rings true. Having confidence in a race is about listening to your body, but ignoring your mind is just as important. You have to think, “I actually can pass this person in front of me, I am actually good enough to get top ten.” You have to believe you are good enough to run to your full potential, otherwise, you will not do it. 

AN: Yeah. This season, I was trying to get a certain time on a day with very bad circumstances in terms of weather. I said something along the lines of, “I can’t do this race, this is not the race that I’m going to do it”. Then you said, “No. You need to tell yourself you can do it because you can.” I did it that time. Keeping that in mind was the best advice someone gave me this year, so it definitely holds true.

RH: Yeah.

AN: Okay, so what is your drive?

RH: I love running. It is something that I will definitely do if I am able to for the rest of my life. Genuinely loving the sport is the reason I am good at it. It definitely comes with genetics, and ability, and training, but just really enjoying every step of running is what keeps me going. 

AN: Last question: what are your goals for the future, cross country and otherwise?

RH: Oh my god, I am so excited for track season, it is going to be so good. I have such high aspirations because there is the four by eight hundred [event]-

AN: Yeah, I am so excited about that.

RH: Yeah, I haven’t done it before. There is the sixteen hundred [event]. There are more records to break. Next year, in cross country, I am even more excited. I want to beat Beth Gordon’s personal record of 18:53**. After that, I want to get top ten in states. After that, there are college applications. If I could get recruited to a division one school that would be incredible. It just keeps going. There is just so much more to do. 

AN: I think you can accomplish all of those goals because I know you are someone if you set your mind to it, you just do it. I have never seen anything like it.

 

*the total of the race divided into the mile times

**fastest personal record in Allderdice girls cross country history

 

Naveh edited the conversation slightly for clarity.