When Duck arrived in Track Town, USA for her undergraduate experience, she took to running as most ducks take to water
By UO student Lili Wagner
At the beginning of her sophomore year at the University of Oregon, Susan Ross ’99 decided to participate in the UOAA’s Homecoming Weekend 5k race. Ross thought it would be fun to run the 5k, and came to the race on a crisp October day ready for a good time.
To her own surprise, she finished first. Ross won the race. Her impressive time was published in the local newspaper, and a few days later she received an exciting phone call.
“I was hanging out in my sorority house when I got a call from Oregon’s track coach asking if I would be interested in running for the Ducks,” Ross recalled.
And just like that, Susan Ross became a Division I athlete.
Ross had been good at running throughout her childhood, but an intimidating coach had scared her away from cross country in high school. As a freshman at the UO, she decided to take up running again and enrolled in a 5k training physical education class. She laughed, “A lot of running is you have it or you don’t.” And despite her amateur experience, Ross obviously had it.
Ross remembered her first race as a collegiate athlete, running the 3,000 meter race on an indoor banked track. “I wore old Pegasus shoes and I ran in lane two for the entire 3,000 meter banked race,” she said, runner talk for, “I had no idea what I was doing.”
In the face of her inexperience, Ross worked tirelessly on running as consistently as possible. She immersed herself in Eugene’s vibrant and celebrated running culture. She did everything in her power to take advantage of her unique opportunity. As a result of her enthusiasm, Ross gained incredible friends and shared in exciting experiences.
Susan with Grier, Henry and Charlie
“I made the greatest friends,” she said. “The girls I became close with are my friends for life. My fondest memories from Oregon are the nights we would hang out at Taylor’s or Rennie’s and, no matter how late we were up, get up in the morning to run the trails of Eugene.”
“I loved running on the Willamette,” Ross added. The Alton Baker Park trails along the Willamette River, which include Eugene’s famous Pre’s Trail, have been expanded since Ross’ days. She said when she visits Track Town, USA she always tries to fit in a run along the scenic river.
Ross now lives in the Los Angeles area with her husband, and fellow Duck, Grier Ross ’98. In addition to her career, Ross coaches running at Caltech, where she is entering her fourteenth season, and serves as a board member for the LA Ducks chapter of the UOAA. Ross and her husband host the annual LA Freshman Send-Off event, last year welcoming more than 240 people into their home.
“We fly our Oregon flag. We definitely make our presence known among the Bruins and Trojans,” Ross joked.
By embracing every wild opportunity that her undergraduate experience offered, Ross gained life-long friends, made unforgettable memories, and formed a lasting relationship with her alma mater.