As Sivan Auerbach paces around the starting line during cross country meets, she reflects on how fortunate she is.
She enjoys the luxury of gold medals, trophies and boosting the No. 3-ranked Cowgirl cross country team to first place finishes in races. Life is good.
Two years ago, rather than waking up in a dorm in the middle of a college campus, Auerbach woke up to faded bedroom walls in military barracks.
The junior cross country runner spent two years of her life doing mandatory military service back home in Israel.
From 18 to 20, Auerbach served as a combat fitness instructor to Israeli activists. She spent her time training soldiers to be in good shape for battle.
“It was really good experience for me and my leadership skills,” Auerbach said. “It wasn’t easy and there were many times I wished I wasn’t there. But looking back on it, it definitely gave me perspective and different experiences that I still take with me as I go on with life.”
One of her favorite aspects of her service is the unity it brought within the people of Israel. A number of different people are gathered together and left to fend for themselves. In Auerbach’s experience, he taught her to not be self-reliant, open to opposing opinions and to learn to appreciate people for who they are and not what she wishes they were.
“All of us, we all had different backgrounds, beliefs, ethnic traits, opinions on certain issues and morals,” Auerbach said. “But as time progressed we realized that we needed to come together for the betterment of our country. We needed to work together for a common goal and doing all that with various groups of people helped me learn to embrace conflict.”
She still performs similar tasks at OSU, but now, it’s for a different purpose.
Auerbach is embraced by her teammates as one of the leaders on the women’s cross-country team. Although her age and two years of experience on the roster certainly helps, they’ve done so even since her freshman season at OSU.
Auerbach credits this to her “tough as nails” persona derived from her time in the military.
“The military shapes you in the right way to put it bluntly,” Auerbach said. “But I enjoyed every bit of it. Like I have said, there absolutely were times I hated it there but I know it was all in my best interest and it’s shaped me into the person I am today.”
Whether she’s in the deserts of Israel or running a race with an orange and black uniform, nothing changes. On and off the track, she remains the same, hard-nosed athlete who is willing to do anything it takes for the betterment of her team.
“Sivan acts like she’s a freshman, and it certainly feels like it because time has flown by since she’s gotten here, but in hindsight nothing has changed about her,” said coach Dave Smith. “She really is tough as nails. I think what she can do and what she has confidence in has absolutely no limits. She’s a confident kid and can do anything she puts her mind to.”