Jan. 14, 2005
Tallahassee, Fla. - Former Florida State cross country standout Rachel Marsh-Springer (Kissimmee, Fla./Osceola) will get the opportunity to repay her debt to the United States Army ROTC, the college scholarship program that funded her Seminole education, when she deploys to Taji, Iraq at the end of the month as a member of the medical services unit.
Marsh-Springer started at FSU as a walk-on Strider moving up the ladders of the program to become a member of the women's varsity cross country team. Marsh-Springer scored in three of five major events in 2003 and four overall for FSU during the campaign including four straight personal best finishes.
"Rachel is like a daughter to me," said head coach Bob Braman, who just finished his fifth season at the helm of the cross country program. "We came to FSU at the same time so we have that connection of her being on my first FSU squad."
Marsh-Springer came through for the women's team at the NCAA South Region meet when she placed 33rd in a time of 22:01.07, rounding at the top five scorers for the Noles and securing an automatic bid to the NCAA National Championships for the second consecutive year and first back-to-back trips in the program's history. At nationals, the Kissimmee, Fla. native ender her Seminole career with a collegiate best time of 21:58, taking 156th place amongst the country's best competition.
"She came as a talented walk-on with a big background in soccer more so than in track and cross country," continued Braman. "But it was apparent right away that she was very determined and would work hard to get as far as she could go."
A four-year, high school varsity soccer player for the Osceola Kowboys in Kissimmee, Marsh-Springer found her way to FSU when she decided to quit soccer and focus on running. After a visit to Seminole territory, Marsh-Springer felt she could grow as an athlete and a student. Marsh-Springer had plans to coach after college but enlisted in the army instead.
"Initially, (her) toughness set her back, via several injuries, but by her junior year she began to make great progress," said Braman. "The other reason that her early progress was blocked was because she was working two jobs. She would run a great practice and then rush home to change and waitress for 4-5 hours. She would also work a retail job on the weekends. By her junior year, she began to make great progress."
After a great junior season on the track, Marsh-Springer met and married second lieutenant Matt Springer during the summer of 2003, something that Braman feels helped her to focus on school and competition. She quit working and was able to finish her season without many of the distractions and stress of working.
Marsh-Springer graduated in the spring of 2004 before heading to Ft. Bragg, N.C. to complete her four-year service requirement of the Army ROTC program.
"The army offered me the ability to continue with physical training and the opportunity to develop my leadership qualities. Those are two things which I was looking for," said Marsh-Springer in a Seminoles.com interview in October of 2003.
Marsh-Springer is a medical service office with the United States Army. She is responsible for 18 medics who take Field Litter Ambulances (FLA) to pick up causalities in war zones and bring them to field hospitals the group constructs. The group also coordinates air evacuation.
Although, she has not returned to Tallahassee since graduation, Marsh-Springer's impression is still fresh in many people's minds and on their hearts, especially her former coach's.
"She's babysat my kids, worked my camps and led our team through many community service projects. I feel that my life is richer for the years I've spent with her," ended Braman.