Women's Track

    Danielle Carruthers' Story (05-23-03)

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    News Update

    May 23, 2003

    Danielle’s Story: Running Fast, Falling Down, Getting Up and Moving On

    For a complete PDF version of Danielle's Story with high-quality photos, click here.

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    I wanted to tell you about Danielle Carruthers. I wanted to ask her questions and find out what her answers were and put all these thoughts and ideas together into this great feature about Danielle, about the obstacles she has overcome, about the success strewn along the path of her life and the trials she has endured.

    But I could only think of one question to ask.

    What’s your story, Danielle?

    So this, it’s her story. Not mine.

    “My name is Danielle Carruthers. I was born Dec. 22, 1979, in Paducah, Kentucky, which is a small city in southwestern Kentucky. Childhood was kind of…general. My parents divorced when I was young. I was raised by my mother who is a very strong woman – she raised me to be the woman that I am today. I took dance lessons for a very long time so I could get strong mentally and physically and overall to have a sense of myself and a very good self-esteem, an always-hold-your-head-up type of thing.

    “Growing up we didn’t really have a lot. I grew up very poor because my parents got divorced at a very early age. My mom worked, at times, three to four jobs to keep food on the table. At one point in time she went back to school. Right before she finished her last semester of school she decided it was time for her to get a job because we were really struggling, and we just really didn’t have a lot. She worked in retail and it wasn’t really that good so we struggled financially. We went probably a year and a half without having anything and just starving. That’s when she decided that she would put her pride aside and get some help from the government.

    “So we had food stamps and checks from the government for maybe about two, two and a half years. Then a hospital around the area went on strike and she had technical training in hospital administration from when I was a baby, so she decided she would go ahead and cross the picket line, even though it was a small town and you’d get persecuted for crossing the picket line. She did that because she realized it was more important to raise a family than have people look down upon you for crossing the picket line. She’s still working at that job.

    “After that, things got better. Of course, she still didn’t get paid a lot, but it was better than what we had been getting.

    “Going through high school, I didn’t know where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do. At that point in time, I really think I was starting to take a turn for the worse. My friends, some of them were positive influences and others of them weren’t. I kind of had a chip on my shoulder from other things that had gone on, being poor and not having any money.

    “Children can be cruel. They’ll talk about you if you have raggedy clothes and things like that. That’s why I kind of take pride in dressing up now. I love to wear makeup and have an appearance that is…pleasant…for me to look at and for other people to look at. That’s the reason that I am that way.

    “Well when I was little, my friends and cousins, we always raced. We would race in the street. ‘I betcha my cousin’s faster than you!’ that type of thing. We always raced a lot and everyone always knew ‘Oh, Danielle’s fast.’ I would do the city-wide stuff, and I would always win. What’s so fun is back then, I used to like to run the 200 and 400. I never ran the sprints because I was never faster than anyone else in the 100 for some reason. If you put me at 200 meters or 150, or something like that, I’d blow everybody out. As I got older, I got a lot more leg speed, I think because I trained more tomboy-directed and ran with guys a lot. And I got really, really fast.

    “In high school, like I said, I had kind of a chip on my shoulder. I went to P.E. one day and happened to beat most of the boys in the 40. Then they said that ‘oh, she needs to run track.’ So, I met my high school coach, Coach (Cecil)Ward, who was my high school coach all four years.

    "I'm a little girl from Paducah, Kentucky. I played in the river and ran around the neighborhood and never wanted to take a shower when I was small. And now, I have graduated from a major university. I have one of the top three times as a collegian (long, long pause) EVER in the hurdles. And, people fear me when I step on the track. I just can't believe that I'm that person."

    Danielle Carruthers
    “Coach Ward said ‘Well, you need to run track.’ So I thought, ‘OK, I’m going to run track.’”

    “My mom didn’t want me to run track for various reasons. She wanted me to still dance and also, we just didn’t have really good insurance so she was afraid that if I would get hurt, the insurance wouldn’t pay for it. Coach Ward was like, ‘Don’t worry about it, the school has insurance for people who don’t have it, Danielle will be fine.’ And my mom still didn’t want me to run. It took five coaches, my step-grandmother and a lot of family members to push her in the direction to let me run. I think my step-grandmother knew from me playing with my cousins that I loved to run and loved to race people. She said ‘This is something she really wants to do, let her do it. You don’t want her to look back and think ‘what if?’’

    “At that point in time my mom thought, ‘I’ll let her run track, but I won’t really get into it.’ So Coach Ward gave me my first pair of spikes and things like that. I was really scared. The first track meet was indoors, the Mason-Dixon Games in Louisville, Ky., the indoor state championships for Kentucky. My first time running was on a banked track, first time running was in spikes. He put me in the 60 and I won my first race in the 60 and became the indoor state champion.

    “From there, I just really listened to him and got better and won states by the end of the year. My mom was thinking, ‘OK, this is pretty good.’ I thought I was hot stuff that year and went off to Des Moines, Iowa, for nationals and got my butt kicked. It was horrible. I’ve never got beat that bad in my life. I came back and realized, ‘OK, I have to get better.’

    “But I also started getting letters from colleges. They would send little questionnaire things so they could keep up on you. So then I started to realize, ‘Man, I could go to any school I wanted to if I just run…really fast.’ They all have standards, if you run this time, you can get a full scholarship. I realized, ‘If I run this time, I can get a full scholarship.’

    “So, the stressful person that I am, I always put a lot of stress on myself. Sophomore year in high school, I’m worrying about how I’m going to go to college and how am I going to run an 11.60. I had a friend tell me, ‘Danielle, you’re only a sophomore. You have a lot of time to run fast.’ So, the entire time through high school I was worrying about running fast enough to get a full scholarship. My mom stressed the importance of college, but I think she would much rather have had me be more involved academically and going to college that way, because we knew we didn’t have the money. That was another reason I wanted to run fast. I knew that financially, we just didn’t have enough money to pay for me to go to school. I knew how expensive it was.

    “So Coach Ward said, ‘You run fast, you can go to any school you want and they’ll pay for it. You can do what you like to do and that will be your source of paying for school.’

    “So I ran the summer meets and got faster every year. As a result, the way I thought about things changed. I had a really bad temper my freshman year of high school. I calmed down, I really had a direction of where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do. In an old newspaper my mom has, it has what schools I wanted to go to. I said Tulane, and I said Miami and I think I said Columbia and Indiana wasn’t even part of the equation.

    “My high school boyfriend got recruited by Indiana, sort of by accident. Indiana was one of the only school’s that would let you run track and play football then, so he came to Indiana and I came with him on an unofficial visit and I met (former head) Coach (Sam) Bell. At that time, the track was brand new - this was back in ’97 and I was thinking, ‘Man, this is really nice!’ I talked to (sprints) Coach (Ed) Beathea and he said, ‘OK, we’ll look at you next year.’

    “By that November, I got tired of schools calling me. Everything I wanted the first three years of high school was something I dreaded my senior year. Stressed out, I had to graduate, I had all these things that I wanted to do. I didn’t have money to do the things I wanted to do. I was in the band and they were going to the Bahamas and Hawaii and I couldn’t go. I was really tired of schools calling. I talked to Coach Wilson, who was the coach at the time for hurdles and said, ‘I want to sign.’

    “I hurt myself that January and I was really glad that I didn’t decide to do a late signing. If you’re hurt, schools can pull their offers, so I was really glad because I had already signed. People were already asking Coach (Randy) Heisler that year ‘How’d you get her to sign?’ because I was running times of 13.5 in the hurdles and11.15 in the 100 and those are standards that LSU and those schools recruit, so they’re asking Indiana, ‘how’d you get her?’

    “That’s my short story to right now, the present.”

    I cannot resist and I ask Danielle one more question.

    So now what, as you look ahead?

    This is a current news photo
    “I was telling my boyfriend, he runs track too (2000 Olympic silver medalist Terrance Trammell) and he came out for graduation and I was just like, ‘I cannot believe I have just graduated from college. I cannot believe that last summer I went and lived in Europe and I went over there and just lived. I can’t believe it. I’m a little girl from Paducah, Kentucky. I played in the river and ran around the neighborhood and never wanted to take a shower when I was small. And now, I have graduated from a major university. I have one of the top three times as a collegian (long, long pause) EVER in the hurdles. And, people fear me when I step on the track. Looking back, I never would have imagined that I’m one of those people that people look at like ‘Oh my God, I don’t feel like running against Danielle Carruthers today.’ Because I feel that way about other people. I’m like, ‘I don’t even feel like running against that girl today.’ I just can’t believe that I’m that person. I can’t believe that I got a degree!

    “Now, I’m 23 years old, and the fact that I have my degree has made me 100 percent grown up. There’s nothing left to do to grow up. When I left high school and came to college, paying my own bills, I thought, ‘OK, I’m grown up.’ Now, I’m really grown up and graduated.

    “I think now, I just want to build on things and continue to make my mom proud of me. My family, we’re affectionate, but we’re not really, really affectionate. And so, we might hug and say ‘OK, girl, see you later!’ But when I graduated I have never had so many members of my family call me and say they are so proud of me and they love me. I felt really, really loved and really, really blessed because it was something I hadn’t experienced since I was small with people wanting to be around me and love me and just so proud of what I had done. Now I’m moving on and I want to continue to make them proud of me.

    “I have a lot of personal goals for myself, and sometimes I tend to rush things. To get the things I want, I have to be patient. I want to be able to financially provide things for my family. I don’t want to spoil them, but I want them to not have to worry about ‘how am I going to do this, how am I going to do that?’ Because that’s what I had to do.

    “But, I think that everything happens for a reason. My mom and I struggled for a reason. We were poor for a long time for a reason. I had to figure out how to work and do certain things for a reason. So I can raise my children to be good people too. At some point in time, Coach Heisler and I were talking and I said, ‘I don’t understand why, at the age of 18, I had gone through more things and experienced more things that a person at the age of 60 would have ever experienced.’

    “Some of them were good, some of them were horrible. God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle. It’s made me a really strong person. I can talk to my teammates and I try to give them insight. They may not listen, but they hear. I look back and thank God for the wisdom that I have. If I didn’t have that, I wouldn’t have made it in Europe last year.

    “In Europe, I was running on a circuit. I did horrible at USAs last year, I didn’t even make the finals and I was really upset. After, I thought, ‘OK, I’m going to make a couple phone calls and see if I can still run.’ I didn’t send in all the forms I needed to, to compete when I was at USAs because I was so upset. So I call this lady and I filled out the forms and got an email from one of the ladies at USA that said ‘Oh yeah, we have room for you, you can run the hurdles. Also….would you like to run a relay?’

    “So then I ran the relay, and I ran pretty well and they said, ‘Do you want to go to Scotland - to Glasgow - and run on the USA team and I said ‘OK.’ Went there and ran well there. And this guy was like, ‘Keep working out because I think we want you to go to World Cup.’ Then I found out that Gail Devers was like, ‘I want her to go.’

    “This all came from one phone call, asking this lady if I could enter this 25-and-under meet, which wasn’t even that big of a meet. I just wanted to go to Europe and run. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done.

    “It’s a business there. Your coach isn’t there like in college and you’re young to the business. You ran 12.68, so what. SO WHAT? I don’t think, without my upbringing and how my mom raised me, I would have made it. After my first meet overseas, I wanted to go home, and I never, ever want to go back home. But I really wanted to go home.

    “After that first day was over, it was over, I ran horrible and I had jet lag. And I look at it now that nothing on the track can ever be as bad as it was that day.

    “Looking back on the season last year. I ran the fastest race of my life (at NCAAs) and I fell. And I picked myself up from that, and I learned a lot. And even though I fell, people told me I fell because I was going too fast. And when people can say that, I can handle that a little bit better. It makes me able to handle things better now, like what happened at Big Tens.

    "The thing that we call 'failure' is not the falling down, but the staying down."

    Mary Pickford (1893-1979)
    “I’m so proud of myself for what happened (at the 2003 Big Ten Championships). I went out there, I ran really well, for some odd reason, clipped a hurdle, fell, thought, ‘Oh, I’m in the lead, I can still qualify for the final.’ Rolled across the line, qualified for the final. After I crossed the line, I said ‘Ow, my wrist really, really hurts.’

    “I couldn’t move my fingers at the time, couldn’t put pressure on it. And it really hurt, but I knew, this was my last Big Tens, and I’m not pulling out. I wrapped it up, got to the 200, got in the blocks and couldn’t put pressure on my wrist, so I did a stand start and still qualified for the finals. Hardest 200 I’ve ever run in my life. I didn’t know that the blocks helped you that much in the 200. So I did a stand start and coaches from other teams were amazed.

    “Other coaches kept saying to me, ‘Oh, we’re so sorry about how you did in the hurdles and I said ‘I qualified for the final.’ They said ‘OH.’ I may have had lane one or nine, but I still qualified for the final. Some of our coaches were kind of worried and I told them I was going to be fine.

    “Then I had to run the relay (4x100) and normally the anchor takes the baton in your left hand, but mine was all wrapped up. Everyone in the relay has a side of the lane you’re supposed to stand on, and if you get the baton in your left hand, you stand to the right of your lane. I had to stand on the opposite side of the lane. We had never done that before, we didn’t even get to practice it. We just prayed that we’d just get it passed off. Got across the line and won the race.

    “I was really worried about the hurdles because, you are at a disadvantage when you’re running in lane nine. You think you’re running by yourself. They put the fastest people in the middle, so they can race against each other and see each other and it makes for a very fast race. When you’re in lane nine, you can’t see anybody, you just can’t. You think you’re running by yourself, but you’re really not.

    “Basically, when I got lane nine, I ran under 13 seconds with a half broken wrist. I ran the finals in the 200, and I was really proud of myself.

    “I think my life experiences really have prepared me for that. I don’t think I could have done that a year ago. I would’ve said ‘My wrist hurts, I’m going to withdraw,’ but I thought ‘I’m just going to run and I’m not going to give anyone the satisfaction and let anyone think that I am weak. At all.’

    Danielle Carruthers heads to the NCAA Regionals May 30-31 in the NCAA Mideast Regional Championships in Columbus, Ohio. She has qualified in the 100-meter hurdles, the 100-meter dash and the 4x100 meter relay with Rose Richmond, Rachelle Boone and Ara Towns. The 4x100 relay team, with Danielle running the anchor leg of the race, won its fourth consecutive Big Ten Championship on May 18.

    Senior Year (2002)
    Indoor- Won the 60m dash at the Big Ten Meet with a time of 7.26, setting an IU record and a meet record • also placed sixth in the 60m hurdles (8.38) and finished second in the 200m dash (23.73) • runner-up in the 60m hurdles at the NCAA Meet with a time of 7.92 • finished in sixth in the 60m dash (7.36)
    Outdoor-Set a school and Big Ten record on her way to the 100m hurdles title • her time of 12.68 marked the third-fastest time by a collegian ever • also a member of the 4x100 relay squad that placed first at outdoors • earned All-America honors in the 100m hurdles at the NCAA Championships • Competed at the North America/Central America/Carribean U-25 Championships and at the U.S. vs. Great Britain meet.

    Junior Year (2001)
    Indoor-NCAA qualifier in the 60m hurdles • scored 16 points for IU at the Big Ten Championship in the 60m (fourth), the 60m hurdles (third), and the 4x400m relay (fourth) • ran a career-best 60m time of 7.37 in the Big Ten Championship semi-final heat to earn third on IU’s all-time records list.
    Outdoor-Qualified as a competitor in the 100m hurdles at the 2001 World University Games in Beijing, China, for her sixth-place finish in the 100m hurdles at the USA Track and Field Championships • NCAA runner-up in the 100m hurdles with a time of 12.79, the top school record in the event • also earned All-America honors as part of IU’s 4x100m relay team and was a competitor in the 200m at the NCAA Championship • Big Ten champion as part of IU’s 4x100m relay team that set the school record at the conference meet (44.01) • finished the season with the top school record in two events (100m hurdles, 4x100m relay) and listed second in both the 100m (11.42) and 200m (23.24).

    Sophomore Year (2000)
    Indoor-Placed second in the 200m at the Big Ten Championship (24.10) • finished 13th in the 200m at the NCAA Championship with an IU school record time of 24.09 • Finished third in the 60m hurdles with a school record time of 8.25 to score six points at the Big Ten Championship • Placed 11th in the 60m hurdles at the NCAA Championship (8.29) • placed sixth in the 60m at the Big Ten Championship (7.49) • posted a then career-best time of 7.45 in the 60m prelims at the Big Ten Championship.
    Outdoor-An All-American as a member of the 4x100m relay team which placed seventh at the NCAA Championship (44.49) • finished third in the 200m at Big Tens with a career-best time of 23.7 • set an IU school record in the 100m hurdles with a time of 13.10 at the Billy Hayes Invitational • placed fifth at Big Tens in the 100m hurdles with a time of 13.58 to score four points • qualified for the 100m hurdles at the NCAA Championship and competed in the preliminary round posting a time of 13.46 • member of the 4x100 relay team that won the Big Ten crown (44.40) • member of the 4x100 school-recording setting relay team (44.22/ASU Invitational).

    Freshman Year (2000)
    Indoor-Redshirted. Outdoor-Redshirted.

    Kentucky’s Gatorade Athlete-of-the-Year twice • three-time state champion in the 100m dash and 100m hurdles • two-time state champion in the 200m • held three state sprint records (freshman and senior years) and finished second twice (sophomore and junior years).



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