No basketball player, male or female, to wear the blue and white at Quincy High School ever scored more points than Ruth (Kipping) Boden.
She finished with 2,287 career points, and she helped the Blue Devils to two Western Big Six Conference championships and two sectional titles. As a senior, she helped QHS win 25 games and qualify for the 1998 Class AA state tournament, where it lost to East St. Louis Lincoln in the quarterfinals. She was named a first-team all-stater in 1998 by the Chicago Tribune, Associated Press, Illinois Basketball Coaches Association and Chicago Sun-Times.
Boden also was a standout in track. As a freshman, she won the 800-meter run and took fourth in the 1,600-meter run at the Class AA state track meet. She placed third in the 800 as a junior and fourth as a senior. She went on to play basketball for two years at Michigan and two years at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville.
Boden, 36, now works as a patrol officer for the Adams County Sheriff's Department, where she has been employed for 14 years. She and her husband, Bryan, live in Quincy.
What is a typical work day for you?
I work nights. I like working nights. I go on at 6 p.m. and go on patrol, and that can be a multitude of things. Sometimes you have cases you follow up on. Obviously we have a dispatch center, so you might get sent out to something. Sometimes you can be proactive. I like to go out on traffic stops. I guess I'm what you would call a go-getter. I don't like to sit still much. There's lot of stuff to do. You can stay as busy as you want, but you still have to take your service calls when they come.
So what's a typical service call?
There is no such thing as a typical service call. There's nothing typical. You deal with kinds of stuff. I work in the county, so we might get some different things than what you might get in the city, like deer accidents. We get a lot of bad traffic accidents because they're more high speed.
Why did you pick law enforcement?
I worked at Chaddock right out of college, but my dad saw an ad in the newspaper for a corrections officer, so I worked in the jail. I like to tell people that I met my husband in jail, except we met working in jail. I was there for about three years, and then I decided I wanted to do patrol and be out and about. I like it better. It pays better, too.
What is it that you like better about being on patrol?
The action. I couldn't sit in an office, I don't think. Nothing against people who sit in the office, but I need some action or something going on. I've always been that way. You get all the drama. You get to see it all up front. I like when I go home, because it's quiet at my house. My job is a front seat to the craziest show on Earth.
When was the last time you picked up a basketball?
It's been a while. I really don't play any more. I really don't have a desire, to be honest. As you get older, your priorities change. I guess I was so immersed in it before that, after a while, I kind of lost interest in college. Nothing against anybody. It was still fun.
Did you ever try coaching?
I thought I might get involved in some kind of camp, but I'm not a good coach. I tried that for a little bit. I'm not good at it. I have a hard time focusing. I tend to watch. I helped at Quincy High School with the sophomores one year, kind of part time. I'd find myself watching the game like a spectator. I caught myself. I needed to focus. I would be a terrible official, too. I would probably watch the game and forget to blow the whistle. I know my limitations.
How did you learn the game?
I played in a league at Baldwin and at the YMCA. My brother Chris and I would go to St. Boniface School. He taught me how to play. He knew I was going to be tall, so that helped. We would go down there for hours. I grew up at 11th and Jersey, so it was a short walk. We got other people playing from the neighborhood. When I was in junior high, I played on the outdoor courts at QU at nighttime and on the weekends. I was pretty tall from the get-go. I was 6-foot-1 in the eighth grade. Then i stopped growing ... at least up, not out. I wasn't going to have money for college. I'm going to be honest. We weren't rich, but I wanted to go to college. My body was meant to do basketball.
Did you love the game back then?
Oh, yeah. My best friend, Heather Hillebrenner, we tagged around. We would ride our bicycles all the time. We were either riding between places or riding for exercise. When we got cars, we didn't ride as much, but we went from place to place to place to play, even after practice. That's all we did. Even during the season, we would still go play. That's all we did. I wasn't a big party person. Some of my friends might go do stuff like that, but I wanted to get my scholarship. I know you can get scholarships for grades, and I got good grades too, but for me, basketball was the easier way. I'm the only one in my family with a degree. It all worked out.
How was your high school career?
That's a loaded question. There was good and bad. If you really want to play, it doesn't matter. We did have good teams. One thing I'm always going to say is that I've always been upset that the girls had to play in a different gym. I didn't think was right. I still don't think it was right. It always kind of angered me. I didn't feel like we were appreciated much. Trust me, I get it. People don't come to watch them much. You're not making money on the girls, but it's just frustrating. As a basketball player, that gym is much better. You want to play in the nicer place. It felt like we were a separate entity. It would have been nice to have some fans. We had a good dedicated few. People in Quincy love basketball. It's a shame more people didn't watch more games. I wish it would have been different. I'll tell everybody that forever.
What was it like being the only girls team in school history to qualify for the state tournament?
That was great, but there's another caveat with that, too. I remember when we went, I was embarrassed because nobody from the community came except parents. There might have been a few people. I mean, I thought it was great, and I knew we made history, but I went up in the stands and no fans were there. I was embarrassed. I'll never forget that. Quincy loves basketball, but there was no one at the game.
What could be done raise the level of play and interest in girls basketball?
There is interest in girls basketball, but it just happens to be at Notre Dame. Half of my family went to Quincy High School. The other half went to QND. My nieces played at QND during some very successful years. If (QHS was) more successful, people would go watch, but then again, that wasn't the case when I played. So I can't explain that. I wish I could give you a magic answer.
You also were a very successful runner. How did you get started in that?
We had a big family. In the summer, my mom sent us outside, and you didn't come back in until it was dark. The athletic field was right down the street, and we were doing something all the time. Our whole back porch was full of sports equipment. I played football with my brothers. We played dodge ball. Anything you could think of. Pretty much any sport, we would do, and the basis of most sports is running.
Ever consider running in college?
I ran one semester at Edwardsville. I would have had to sit a year had I gone from Division I to Division I, and I was kind of about done with it all. I just wanted to play and be done. When I transferred, they didn't have a scholarship for me. I talked to the track coach, and he remembered me from high school, and I got a scholarship for track that semester. I did pretty good, but I wasn't as good as I was in high school.
Why did you choose Michigan?
I just always liked Michigan. You always heard about the Fab Five, but they're good in every sport. I got a lot of letters, mostly for basketball. They would send letters and call. In hindsight, I wish I had gone on all of my trips. I probably shouldn't have run cross country in the fall (in high school). It was all kind of rushed. What was I, 17? You don't know anything. I liked it, but you're not going to know what it was like. I said, "Hey, let's roll with it."
What was life like at Michigan?
They were good. There was nothing really bad. To be honest, I was really homesick. I was kind of immature. It was a lot of fun. The things people don't see is that you travel a lot, and you miss a lot of class. There's a lot more to it. I never had a problem with schoolwork. It's a lot of time. It's a lot different than high school. We flew pretty much everywhere except for Michigan State. It was just a different world.
So why did you transfer?
I'm going to be honest. I'm not completely innocent. I have a bit of an attitude. I always have. I actually started my freshman year. It wasn't that I couldn't play. I'll put it this way. I said some things I probably shouldn't have said. The coach (Sue Guevara), I'll put a little on her, too. Five people transferred within two years, so it wasn't just me. I'll kind of leave it at that. I'm not putting all the blame on them. Sometimes, I have a big mouth. I was immature.
So was it homesickness? Or more?
What people don't see is the life away from basketball. I didn't have a car at Michigan. I felt like a little kid again. You're starting your life over. You don't know anybody. You make friends on your team, but it's just different. If I wanted to go drive somewhere today, I can. I couldn't do that in Michigan. You don't have as much freedom. You're definitely tied down a lot. Your days are very structured. You're earning your scholarship for sure. I don't regret it. I got to be on TV. How many people are on national TV several times? We played in awesome arenas. I'm not going to say anything bad about the coaching staff. They treated me well. Sometimes you get into a little bit of a hole, and you say something and you can't take things back ... you know how it goes.
You were comfortable competing at that level, weren't you?
I heard it from all kinds of people. "Why did you go (to SIUE, which was then a Division II school)? You weren't good enough to play at Michigan?" No, it wasn't that. I started as a freshman up there. I was kind of getting to the point, not that I didn't care, but I didn't foresee playing in the pros. I just wanted to get my degree and go on to regular life. I did a lot of sports for a long time. After a while, I decided I would actually like a little free time once in a while. It was a means to an end. I'll leave it at that. When you transfer from a D-1, where there's all this hype, and you go to a D-2 school, there's all the naysayers who say, "We knew you weren't that good." I know I was good enough. There are people in the WNBA now who I played against. I was just as good as them. I know I was. I don't regret it. This is terrible to say, but the WNBA players don't make that much anyway. I never had a desire to go overseas. I don't care if I would have made $200,000. I never had any interest going overseas.
Now it sounds like you've gone cold turkey when it comes to playing basketball or running.
Even from working out (laughs). I'm not in the good shape I used to be. I just got away from it. I didn't want to shoot at all. Every once in a while, I will shoot around, but it's probably been two years. When you get older, I don't want to get hurt or I'll miss work. You just have different priorities.
What do you do with your free time?
My husband and I, we have a dog. We have a lot of the same interests. We like to shoot guns. We like going four wheeling. We like riding our motorcycles. I like the action stuff.
Do you apply lessons you learned in basketball to your job now?
I'm still competitive. You make an arrest, and there's still a competitive desire. We all have nights when you're tired, but I think you should work hard. I've always been that way. You won't have success if you don't work hard. You're getting paid, you should go do stuff. That's how I am.
How long do you plan to continue working in law enforcement?
I'm pretty happy now. My job is unique in that you can retire after 20 years, and I'll have 20 years when I'm 44. I would want to work past that. You can get your pension at 50. I don't know that I would work past that. It's a stressful job. I'm already starting to get a lot of gray. After that, I really don't know.