By Brent Fritzemeier
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Some of the smallest things in life can have the biggest impact. A seemingly insignificant decision can shape a person's future.
Sydney Messick was in ninth grade when she had "the moment."
"The summer before my freshman year of high school one of my friends said she was going to cross country practice and that she didn't want to go by herself," Messick said. "She asked me to go with her, and I just kind of stuck with it."
Now a senior on Kansas State's cross country squad, Messick didn't have to look far for a running role model. Her mother, Jenny Sodergren, was also a collegiate runner. It just took a small push to make her realize her potential.
"I actually didn't even think I could run in college until my senior year of high school," Messick said. "My freshman and sophomore years, I was not fast at all. Then my senior year I started to get a lot better. I came on a visit of K-State's campus and I loved it, so I contacted the coach and let him know that I was interested in running here. I just loved everything about K-State, so I didn't even feel the need to look anywhere else."
Once she arrived on campus, it didn't take long for cross country coach Michael Smith to start molding her into a competitive runner.
"When we brought her here as a freshman, I think that she was a little bit shell-shocked and unsure of herself," Smith said. "She very quickly decided that she wanted to be good at this. When she figured that out she came to me and asked, 'What do I need to do?'
"When we told her what she needed to do, she embraced that and it transformed her, over a period of years, into what we have today, which is an athlete that is on the cusp of being very good."
Messick's quest to become a top-notch performer has been aided by her studies. She will graduate this spring with degrees in Dietetics, Kinesiology and Human Nutrition, majors that have interesting parallels to success in athletics.
"There is a lot of relation between what you eat and how you perform," Messick said. "I think it is really interesting how that works. I definitely want to go into sports nutrition after I graduate, working with athletes and helping them to do their best. I think some people don't realize that what you eat effects how you can perform on the field."
She must be on to something if past results are any indication. She was a vital part of the Wildcats' success last year as she finished in the Top-20 in all six of the team's events, including three Top-5 finishes. Messick's performances were good enough to land her on the All-Big 12 and All-Regional teams last season. Smith thinks this has the potential to be a very special year for her.
"What we see in training and what I know that she is capable of is what we hope will be realized by the end of the year," Smith said. "She has put in the proper work, and she has the right attitude in training. What remains to be seen is if she has that right competitive attitude. Those are two different things. She has dedicated herself to being as good as she can be. Now she has to perform at that level."
Cross country isn't just an individual sport, however, and with the departure of All-American Beverly Ramos, the Wildcats will look to Messick to lead the way in 2010.
"We definitely want to do well at the Big 12 meet," Messick said. "We have been sixth for the last two years, but I know we can do better. I think if everyone works at it and we try our best, we can get into that top three. I don't want to put a limit on it because these girls are amazing, and I know that if we work hard we can do anything."
So while it might have been a small moment that turned Messick into a cross country runner, it is her hope that she can end her career this fall with a big moment.
"I definitely want to go to nationals, and when I get there I want to run well and be an All-American," she said. "I will do whatever I have to do to get there. I will work as hard as I possibly can. Coach writes the training and he knows what to do, so I will just do what he says and I know I will get there."