Mandan News

On the path to greatness: one journey

Rachel Ford, who saw a successful career in both swimming and soccer, recently graduated from Mandan High School.  ( photo)

Rachel Ford, who saw a successful career in both swimming and soccer, recently graduated from Mandan High School. ( photo)

By Dustin White
Mandan News, editor

One’s high school years can be quite difficult. Finding time for school, family and friends can be overwhelming. Adding extracurricular activities to that already burdened schedule can be a bit much for some. However, for others, the outcome is impressive success. Rachel Ford is an example of the latter.

Beginning her athletic career while in kindergarten, Ford began as many youngsters do: by playing. With guidance from her father, she progressed in the sport of soccer.

It was another sport that Ford would find herself primarily drawn to, though, while in elementary and middle school.

Competing as a swimmer, Ford gained a good deal of recognition. Often leading Mandan in scoring, she found herself headed to state on a number of occasions.

It was as part of a relay team that Ford would also receive her first Mandan Athletic and Recreation Club athlete of the month award. Along with seniors Rachel Aldinger, Kari Falter and Kiersten Sauber, Ford, who was just a sophomore at the time, received the distinction in November of 2011.

“These four young ladies truly show what you can do when everyone works together and believes,” Ralph Manley, the Girls Swimming and Diving Head Coach at the time, said.

While Ford competed at the top of her game in the water, it was on land that she eventually saw some of her greatest success.

However, it didn’t always appear that way. Having played soccer for a considerable time, it wasn’t until Ford was a freshman in high school that she received actual goalie training.

Starting her first season in the junior varsity team, Ford began honing the skills that would make her a fierce competitor. Yet, it wouldn’t prove to be as simple as that. Shortly into her freshman year, Ford was thrown into a game that would change her entire career.

With the varsity girl’s soccer team without a goalie, there was a position that desperately needed to be filled. Even though Ford may not have been fully prepared for what would be put in front of her, she would prove herself from the very first game.

Being promoted to the varsity team was not necessarily a permanent position. It wouldn’t take long before her place on the team was cemented though.

Stepping onto the field for the first time, with her new team, Ford would help lead them to their first victory. While her nerves certainly rattled her a bit, the game would end with zero goals having gotten past Ford.

After that first win, Ford earned her place on the team. However, her training was hardly finished. During the next four years, she would continue to excel at the game, learning as she went on.

The goalie training itself was quite specialized. Requiring their own coach, practice consisted of a lot of foot work and conditioning.

“There was a lot of repetition,” Ford said.

It wasn’t just physical work that was needed though. Mental conditioning was also focused on.

“Being goalie is much more mental than other positions,” Ford said. “You have to be completely focused, as you never know when the ball will be shot at you.”

The hard work and dedication paid off. Finishing up her final year of high school, Ford earned the distinction of All-State First Team. However, it came as a surprise.

“I wasn’t expecting it,” Ford said. “Last year, I was nominated for All-State Second Team, but never got it.”

With Ford remaining as the varsity goalie, in 2013, the girl’s soccer team saw their first spot in the state tournament, since they were sanctioned as a school team in 1996. Ford finished off the year with over 60 saves, and being named as a MAR Club athlete of the month.

“She never complains, she never slacks off and she is very determined to work hard for her teammates in the net,” Jennifer Kessler, Braves Girls Soccer Head Coach, had said. “Her commitment to the team and dedication to be the best keeper she can be got her a captain nomination for the 2013-14 season.”

However, Ford’s highlight would end up being when they beat St. Mary’s, a team they had never had a victory over. It would be the last game of the year.

It wasn’t just with sports that Ford succeeded though. Keeping up academically, Ford found herself on both the middle school and high school honor rolls consistently. Eventually, she also earned the distinction of Academic All-Conference, having maintained high grades in her classes.

Ford would also find time to be involved in other extra curricular activities. Following other passions, she became involved in art club and concert choir.

Having graduated, Ford now plans on continuing onto college, with the plans of becoming an optometrist, but there will be a few things that she leaves partially behind.

“I want to focus more on school work,” Ford said. “I love athletics, but I also want to explore other fields.”

That’s not to say that she won’t continue to be involved with sports. Instead of playing though, she will be taking on a teaching role.

“I plan on going to BSC for my generals and then NDSU,” Ford said. “While I’m here though, I will be the goalie coach for the high school teams.”

The new role is not something completely foreign to Ford either. Having been a life guard for three years, she has also found time in her busy schedule to teach swim lessons.

Achieving the success that she has, Ford has continued to be humble. Looking back on her athletic past, she sees how the conditioning and practice were all worth it.

“I’m grateful to all of my coaches,” Ford said. “They have to put up with a lot, as everyone has their moments. They are amazing people.”

Having helped her grow, not just as an athlete, but all around, she can look at her career with more confidence.

“Training definitely helped me scope with stress,” Ford said.

With the future ahead of her, Ford appears to be on a great path. Having her goals, as well as the determination to achieve them, little will be able to stand in front of Ford.