Just 18 years old and entering her sophomore year of college, Sophie Bolich has known for quite some time that journalism and running — two things that were near and dear to Don Walker — were her two life passions.
Sophie, a journalism major at Marquette University, is the second student to receive the Don Walker Memorial Scholarship.
Inspired by her mother, who also was a runner, Sophie has been running competitively for years and was MVP in both track and cross country at Plymouth High School. She was named the Alice Zell Outstanding Female Athlete in 2014 and was selected to the academic all-state team four times.
She began her journalism career during her senior year in high school when her English teacher encouraged her to write for the student newspaper. She’s been hooked ever since.
Sophie was born in Plymouth, Wis., and is the daughter of Harry and Mary Bolich. She has a brother, Gregory, and a sister, Elizabeth.
She was interviewed in June 2017 by Don Walker Scholarship Committee member Mike Juley.
Here is their conversation, lightly edited for clarity and length:
How did you get interested in journalism, and what got you interested in writing?
I’ve always loved reading and writing, but I never considered journalism until very late in high school. I’m a curious person, and I love learning about people — their backgrounds, struggles, triumphs, dreams and goals — which to me is what journalism is all about: telling people’s stories.
I have strong beliefs concerning our society and the way certain people, animals and the environment are treated. What drew me to journalism was the chance to provide a voice for those who tend to be overlooked. My mom is also a fantastic journalist. She is a mentor and role model to me.
You’re very active on social media. How do you use the various platforms, such as Instagram, Facebook and Vine, to take advantage of what each platform provides?
My favorite social media platform is Instagram. I originally got into that because I liked to cook and share pictures of my food. Instagram provided me a quick and easy way to do this while also seeking inspiration from other accounts. As I got older, social media became a place to share my beliefs and find other people with similar philosophies to mine. It was helpful in finding like-minded friends and allies to causes close to my heart. I am in awe of the power social media can exert when it is used in a positive way, such as the Women’s March in January that recruited worldwide participation and camaraderie, and was organized completely using the internet.
When did you start your blog, Running Shoes and Rabbit Food, and what got you interested in blogging?
It makes me so happy when people ask about my blog! I’ve been cooking since I was old enough to reach the kitchen counter. Food and the culture and feelings surrounding it just fascinate me. I used Instagram in the past to share the recipes I made, but I was inspired by other food bloggers whom I idolize to create a bigger platform, allowing me to share entire recipes, more photos and more personal thoughts. I started the blog June 2014. You’ll notice the content has evolved a little over time from exclusively food to travel recaps, and lately stories from my journalism class.
How did you become interested in blogging about food issues, and what’s your philosophy about food?
I grew up as a distance runner and watched too many of my friends and competitors fall victim to eating disorders. The massive anxiety surrounding food, weight, appearance and body image that so many girls, boys, men and women suffer from breaks my heart, and I wanted to show people that no food is the enemy.
I think fueling your body properly with a balanced diet can be enjoyable, healthy and still delicious. I still struggle to take my own advice sometimes, but I try to remind myself that life is for living, and nobody is their best self when they’re starving or unsatisfied.
Tell us a little about your passion for running. Your mom was a runner. Was she your inspiration for beginning a running career?
It’s hard to imagine a time in my life when running wasn’t my main priority. I grew up watching my mom’s races, cheering my siblings on in their track and cross country meets, and waiting impatiently for the day when I could finally lace up my spikes.
Running is such a joyful sport. It’s just as much fun to watch as it is to compete. I’m drawn to running because it makes me feel powerful in a world where that feeling is difficult to come by, especially for women. It makes my heart so full when I see the grit, camaraderie and pure raw human strength that running brings out.
Why did you choose Marquette University?
I don’t know if I can even explain it, but Marquette felt like a home from the minute I stepped on campus. Choosing a college is a big decision to make on a gut feeling, but I knew about the excellent journalism program and heard nothing but good news about the cross country and track teams, so I knew it couldn’t be bad. I can say with happiness that I absolutely made the right choice.
Describe your typical day when school is in session.
Each day was a little different because of a varied workout schedule, but most days included a morning bike shakeout or 2 mile run, classes from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. with a break for lunch, then either another run and weight training, or a workout on the track. Then I would shower and do homework or go to my evening class before visiting friends or reading before bed. Being a student athlete can sound like a lot to keep up with, but it is manageable and adds so much to my college experience.
Don Walker shared your passions for journalism and for running. What do you hope to accomplish in your final semesters of college, and what are your goals that you hope to reach after graduation?
I still have a lot to learn about journalism, so I’m looking forward to challenging myself and getting out of my comfort zone in the following semesters. My goals after graduation are mostly dreams right now, but what I love about a journalism degree is how open the possibilities are. We live in a big world, and there are stories everywhere to be told. All I hope for in my career is to uncover some of those stories to share.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I just want to thank my mom. Everyone thinks their mom is the best one, but she has shown me the meaning of strength, empowerment, kindness and resilience. She’s my first phone call for both the best and the worst days of my life, and I know I’ll hang up with a smile regardless of which one it is. I am a writer and runner just like her, and I look up to her every day as the woman that I want to be.
To donate to the Don Walker Scholarship Fund, click here.