Pillars of Support

Senior Paige Mullen was November Student Athlete of the Month after coming 2nd in 6A girls’ state cross country

Morgan Tate

It’s nearly silent on this path.

Nobody tends to jog this far out at Rim Rock Farm. Senior Paige Mullen isn’t nervous, she stuck to her pre-race traditions of wearing her lucky black-and-white Nike sports bra, eating the same meal and putting her hair up in the same bubble braid. She’s fully locked in for this race. What keeps her going is just around the corner. She is surrounded by crowds of people, some yelling her name as she continues running. 

Mullen was jealous, she had watched her mom and brother run together and she wanted to join too. She ended up loving running with her family. When her brother started summer track, she quit soccer and joined him. It didn’t just develop her love for running, but she also developed a special relationship with her brother. 

“It really helped us form a very unique bond,” Mullen said. “I feel like a lot of siblings don’t have that bond. We were teammates. We went to the same practice, went to the same everything.”

Her mother was also a cross-country runner in high school, but while she doesn’t run anymore, she has become a prime supporter of her daughter. Both her parents volunteer at pasta dinners and help plan the banquet.

“My parents come to like every single meet,” Mullen said. “Whether it’s JUCO, Oklahoma or South Dakota, they come to everything which I really appreciate. Some people’s parents don’t come to anything.”

Mullen may run in the girls’ races, but she mostly practices with the boys. Originally, they had to get used to having a sophomore girl in their training group. But now they’re welcoming toward her. 

“It’s a special bond with the boys,” Mullen said. “I train with them and stuff. I don’t race with them. They’re very competitive people. But when it comes to the day of the race, they all support each other a lot. Sometimes they say the funniest things ever. They’re some of the funniest people I’ve ever met.”

While coach Justin Stigge isn’t her loudest supporter, like her teammates, Mullen feels that he is always there for her. 

“He’s kinda like a father figure to me,” Mullen said. “I mean, obviously, I have my dad. believed in me every day since my freshman year when I didn’t even believe in myself. He’s the best couch I’ve ever had. He’s not like the most vocal coach ever, but the things he does say are very important and I take them to heart.”

As she runs down that path at Rim Rock, she can hear the voices of her teammates cheering her on. She can hear the occasional yells of her coach. While she can’t hear her family, she is certain they’re somewhere in the crowd. She loves running, but the people who form her support system are what keep her running and what carried her to 2nd place.