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Spring 2010 - Student to field

Destination Purdue > Spring 2010 - Student to field

Student brings her A-game to the field

By Ashley Bechman

Allison Ruch in tractor

Photo provided by Brian Bornino 

Allison Ruch, a junior turf science major from Fort Wayne, Ind., performs maintenance on the football field at Purdue's Ross-Ade Stadium.

Plenty of college students hate yard work, but not Allison Ruch. Last summer, the junior turf science major from Fort Wayne, Ind., scored an internship as an athletic fields caretake at Purdue's West Lafayette campus. A big part of her job was helping maintain the fields by making sure they were regularly mowed and fertilized.

"The very first time I moved the football field in April, I was awestruck because of the fact that I was in charge of making sure this field was in great condition come football season," Ruch said.

Ruch didn't just run a lawn mower. If something went wrong with a field, it was her job to help solve the problem. That happened when the soccer field required extra care - the tarp that covered it in the winter came off, turning a large part of the field brown.

"We had to replant brown patches on the soccer field with a Bermuda grass and ryegrass mix," Ruch said. "It was so frustrating, because it felt like I was just watching paint dry whil we waited for the grass to grow."

However, when the newly planted grass finally sprung up, the field looked as good as new, she said.

One benefit of the job was seeing the Boilermakers take the field, Ruch said. Then, she saw all of her hard work in the painted lines, level playing field and mowed-in patterns.

"It is one of the greatest feelings in the world to look over the football field - which I poured my heart and soul into to make sure it was prepared for the big day - and receive compliments on my work," Ruch said. "I especially enjoyed hearing the compliments our supervisors passed on to us from coaches and players."

During the game, Ruch said she probably spends as much time watching the turf get kicked up on the field as she does watching a play unfold. That was particularly true when Purdue faced Notre Dame.

"During one particular play, turf was flying everywhere," Ruch said. "I immediately texted my grad student supervisor and he laughed and said that it would be OK. They would fix the torn-up turf later."

After the last whistle blows, the work begins again. Maintenance after the game not only helps maintain the field's beauty, it also keeps players safe by eliminating holes they could trip on.

"Sometimes it takes more than two hours for us to fill in the divots on the field, especially if there are three home games in a row," Ruch said. "But it is all worth the hard work knowing the players will be safe during their next game, and when the grass begins to grow, the field will look great again.

Her attitude has been noticed by her supervisors. "Allison is very enthusiastic about her job, works hard, is a great team member and does not complain when something is tough or goes wrong," said Cale Bigelow, associate professor of agronomy and advisor of the turf science program.

Just seeing all of her hard work on game day and knowing she did her best to help the players succeed is payment enough, Ruch said. Still, she does not mind when the Boilermakers pull out a win.