I would like to present a profile of one of our super active people, who happens to play tennis along with a myriad of other activities.
This virtual whirling dervish is so busy that it took me three weeks just to get an interview with her! She gets so involved in so many things and juggles them all with copious notes of what she is doing and when.
Tennis is just one of many outlets she has, from hiking to being on the ratings committee,to picking fruit for the food bank, to Zumba to occasional "Texas Hold Em" poker! As my co-captain last year, I can certainly attest to her total commitment to the task at hand!
Sue was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and has spent her life in this state. She and her husband. Dick Gjerde (pronounced Jurdee) now live 8 miles south of Madison on lake Waubesa. In her early childhood years,she had 2 Shetland ponies and a Tennessee Walking horse. She initially showed the ponies in 4H classes and then as a teenager she competed in Pleasure class and Equitation in State fairs and local horse shows. After completing high school in Madison, Sue went to Madison Area Technical College. She at first studied court reporting then switched to Business Machines / Computers. Upon graduating she was hired by the state of Wisconsin, department of Revenue doing data entry for Wisconsin tax forms for two years. She then was promoted to the state’s department of Veterans Affairs and in fact was their first computer person. This is where she met her future hubby, Dick, whom she knew for three years before she started dating him. He was director of Information Technology and her boss! At this juncture in my story, I am dying to say she was sleeping with the boss but propriety would suggest that I shouldn’t say that...
Sue was promoted again to oversee the technical support department for the state of Wisconsin where she worked for 22 years. Being upwardly mobile, she later applied for and was accepted as a project leader for the division of Information Technology (IT) by the University of Wisconsin, where she remained for five years.
Sue took a leave of absence for one year to see if she would like early retirement and as fate would have it - life interfered. During the few years prior to her LOA she and Dick spent a lot of their time cross country skiing and entered several short and long distance X-C ski races, first in Wisconsin and then eventually in Europe and Scandinavia - competing in the World Loppet ski races. Apparently there are 14 such races and ironically the World Loppet race for the USA (named the "Birkebeiner"and affectionately called "the Birkie") is in Wisconsin. Going back a few years now, to the 1980’s, it seems that Dick had introduced her to archery. Sue being Sue, she started entering archery tournaments, which evolved into Bow hunting for both small and large animals, and even for big carp (fish) in the spring, summer and fall. Coincidently, at one of the Birkebeiner ski races, a man was there encouraging spectators to try bow hunting. Sue immediately impressed him with her innate skills. This man was actually recruiting for the US ski/archery team! Sue can’t remember his name (mainly because he was ”drop dead good looking”) He later sent her an information package on the training and selection process, and she was invited to attend an upcoming training session This sport is akin to the US Biathlon team except the Biathletes do X-C skiing and shoot rifles whereas the US Ski/ Archery do X-C skiing then shoot arrows..these athletes do a two mile ski race then shoot four arrows at a three and one half inch diameter target from 20 yards, followed by another two mile ski, then four arrows from a kneeling position. Needless to say, the athletes have to control their breathing and try to slow their heart rate for the target portion of the race! These athletes are FIT!
Sue’s first US team training session was in Driggs, Idaho in the early fall of 1998. There wasn’t enough snow so she did the race portion on roller skis! She made the first cut for the US team then returned a month later for the second tryout which now was on snow. Again she made the cut. In late November of that same year, she and Dick drove to New Hampshire for the US national archery/ X-C competition. She won the bronze medal in this, her first big competition.
Meanwhile Dick had met and befriended Ed Eliasson, the seven time US Olympian in archery and coach for the archery portion of the team. This man must have seen and respected Dick’s total perseverance to the point that Dick was asked to be an assistant coach! Sue next went to the US team selection trials in Park City Utah at the Utah Winter Games. She placed second and was name to the USA ski/archery team!!!!
A few months later she went to France for the World Cup ski/archery event. Dick was the assistant to the archery coach and a volunteer ski waxer for the ski team. These wax technicians would work long hours into the night preparing and waxing 32 pair of skis for the racers. Each racer had four pairs and the wax technicians would constantly watch the weather to try to come up with the exact right wax for the next day’s races. Each pair of skis would be waxed a little differently to maximize the odds of hitting the right combination for that day’s conditions and temperature. Early the next morning, the team racers would do speed tests to see which wax was going to work best for that day’s race.
These world cup races were held every two years,so 2001 saw Sue and Dick in Poland where she competed and finished 14th in the world!! For the uninitiated, this achievement is fantastic! How many of us can boast that at one time in our lives we finished in the top 15 in the world in anything? Sue can!!
Later that winter, the US ski/archery team was asked to test the US Olympic facility outside Salt Lake City for the next year’s Olympic biathlon event. The ski/archery teams mission was to comment on the conditions, test the course and give feedback on the facilities, food,, vendors, security, etc - even the rest room facilities! We must appreciate that there was no Olympic event for the ski/archery team, as the biathlon was firmly entrenched as an Olympic event and very similar to Sue's event, so she and her team were honored to ski and train at the US Olympic site before the actual Olympics.
Sue was on the US team for four years. Unfortunately the team was disbanded due to lack of facilities, funding, and basically not enough of a feeder system to sustain a full fledged competitive team. We must also factor in that in other parts of the world, as happens with many other sports, financial support is crucial. It is hard to be on a level playing field with some European nations where to be on certain teams is a full time paid profession. As an example, in Austria, alpine ski racers are revered as demi-gods and a ski instructor is a very important person with a wonderful career. Here, the focus is on baseball, football, basketball,etc. There must be an all out drive to succeed in these lesser known and funded sports, or it is virtually impossible to compete with these countries who pour money into their events. Sue Crouch had the drive to succeed. She had her own routine, where at home she would jump off her stationary training bike, race through the recreation room, through the laundry room where she strapped on her bow and then shoot her arrows through the open breezeway and garage doors to a 20 yard target.!! In the summer, she and Dick competed in cycling races to stay sharp for her winter passion. Now picture some European and Scandinavian countries with state of the art training facilities, unlimited funding,and a large pool of athletes to draw from and you will see that it was very difficult to compete. The US team was disbanded but Sue’s accomplishments are now a matter of public record.
So good luck next year at 3.0 tennis Sue, and don’t slow down!! Remember,you will always have these wonderful memories and knowing you, there is another challenge just around the corner.