On the final day of the greatest get-together for the global dairy industry, a live session in The Tanbark highlighted the story of how a girl from a Vermont dairy farm turned into one of the best long-distance runners in the world.
“My school was so small, we didn’t even have a cross-country team or a real track to run on,” St. Pierre described.
Working long and hard hours on the farm made becoming an athlete in school quite simple, St. Pierre said. She started out by playing soccer, basketball, and softball for many years, simply because she enjoyed being active. However, a basketball coach noticed her talent for running and told her she should try running the mile for the track team. She realized how much she liked to push herself and run for long distances, so she forged a new path.
Moderator of the interview, Peggy Coffeen, asked how she trained without access to regular training facilities. As a reply, St. Pierre mentioned how the back roads of Vermont were key to her training.
“Those country hills really pushed me to work hard,” she joked.
This dairy farmer continued her running journey into college and started to realize her full potential, while onlookers took notice of her incredible talent. She was eventually able to reach the goal of many athletes – the opportunity to compete in the Olympics.
“I worked my way up to qualifying for the 2016 Olympic trials while I was in college,” St. Pierre said. “This is what helped me start to think how it just might be possible. However, it wasn’t until a current Olympian runner told me that I have what it takes to do it, then I started to really believe in myself, which completely changed the game.”
It is because of her background on her family’s farm that allowed her to have the grit and determination to reach these goals and compete in the Tokyo Olympics. Looking forward, she will compete in London in 2024.
“On the farm, no matter how tired you might be, the cows have to be milked or the hay has to be put away,” St. Pierre recalled. “I believe it was those kinds of tasks that set me up to be successful.”
Today, she continues to be involved in the industry despite her parents selling their herd in December 2020. Her husband’s family has a dairy farm that she helps on during the off-season for her training or whenever she has the opportunity.
Coffeen told St. Pierre how much of an inspiration she is to other young women in the industry, by showing them they can accomplish whatever they put their mind to. I couldn’t agree more with this statement, as working on a dairy farm has provided me with amazing life lessons such as how to work hard. Coffeen asked what St. Pierre would like to tell other young people in the industry based on her experiences.
“Growing up in the dairy industry will set you apart and give you an advantage in life,” St. Pierre said. “It gives you unique skills to use, and it’s something to be incredibly proud of.”
St. Pierre shares her story on social media at @elleruns_4_her_life. Her posts range from her ongoing training to facts about dairy, and everything else in between. I may not be a distance runner but I sure do love dairy, and I hope to embody some of the amazing traits that she got from being in the industry. It sure is a great place to be!
Mikayla grew up near Osceola, Wis. She discovered her passion for the dairy industry while working on her neighbors’ Holstein dairy farm. That spurred her involvement in 4-H and FFA, and following graduation from Osceola High School, she headed to the University of Minnesota to pursue a degree in agricultural communication and marketing. During the school year, she worked as a website designer for the University of Minnesota department of animal science, and last summer, she was a farmer relations intern for Midwest Dairy. Peper served as the 2022 Hoard’s Dairyman editorial intern.