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Celebrating Earth Day and a Fire Win with Lydia Mitchell

Updated: Jul 5, 2021

By John Ring

Lydia Mitchell didn’t waste a lot of time in Knox College's season opening soccer game against

Illinois College.

Not that Lydia is impatient. Not at all. She’s a Midwest girl from Missouri and a multi-sport athlete, a 5’6” junior with a lot of soccer experience and loves Thai peanut noodles. But Mitchell and her Prairie Fire team were on a mission in that season opener. Like other collegiate sport teams in Illinois, they had been sitting things out, waiting for “the curve to flatten” and for things to open up slowly but surely. “The team was pretty intense that day,” said Lydia.

“We were hungry.”

Barely over a minute into the game, Mitchell found herself on the left side wing and Illinois College had the ball. “Our game plan was to pressure their defense and see what we could get

by doing that,” said Lydia. “The ball was sent in and we pressured two of their players and then I

got the ball.”

“I saw the goal, took the shot and hit it. I was very lucky. Our focus and preparation worked and

it was left up to me to create the shot.”

Mitchell’s early goal set the tone for the game and an offensive explosion. She added another

later and also passed for an assist in Knox’s eventual 6-0 drubbing of Illinois College. “I don’t

think I’ve ever scored so early,” said Lydia.

Lydia Mitchell came to Knox College from Maryville, Missouri, a quiet, small town of about

11,000 folks north of St. Joe and nestled in between two interstate highways. It’s in the heart of

Chiefs Country. “It wouldn’t be very good to go into Maryville and say you’re not a fan of Patrick

Mahomes,” laughed Lydia. “Our high school and the University there both have a winning

football tradition.”

Mitchell played soccer and ran cross country for the Spoofhounds, which is one of the all-time

great sports nicknames. She was connected to the football program by being a drum major and

played at halftime of the Hounds games and Maryville High also played their home soccer

games at the Hound Pound.

Lydia selected Knox College after graduation and has no regrets whatsoever. “Absolutely none,”

she said. “I feel very lucky to be at Knox College and in Galesburg. Coming in, I was very

nervous but on the second day in Galesburg I knew that I was happy here and it’s been that

way since.”

Lydia’s career high for scoring is three goals in a game last year and Knox still has a second

game to play on May 1 against Lake Forest before their very-abbreviated season is over. “We’re

hoping next Fall is more back to normal and we can play a full season,” said Mitchell. “We want

to focus on having fun and supporting each other. But we only have two games this season and

we want to make both of them count.”

Despite the light schedule, Mitchell stays busy. She’s also on the Knox Track and Field team,

competing in the 400 and 200 yard events. “But,” Lydia said, “soccer is still my love.”

And the Thai peanut noodles? I had to ask her about those.

“They’re noodles with a spicy peanut sauce,” said Lydia. “They're very good.”

Lydia has a double major, in both Environmental Science and Political Science. By coincidence,

the 51st year of Earth Day (created in 1970) fell on the day after we spoke on the phone. (Bonus

fun fact: On the first Earth Day, President Nixon planted a tree on the south lawn of the White


“Eventually, I’d like to get into environmental law and urban planning,” said Mitchell. “I know a

lot of Knox graduates go on to Chicago but I’m not sure where I’ll wind up. I have roots in the

Pacific Northwest so that’s still up in the air.”

So on Earth Day for Lydia, I put on the screen saver of my computer the historic “Earth Rise”

photo taken by Apollo 8 astronaut Williams Anders on December 24, 1968. On the 50th

anniversary of that photo, Anders said, “We came to explore the Moon but instead discovered

the Earth.”

It's a classic shot. It indirectly helped spur the movement to create Earth Day, along with the

horrific images of the Cuyahaga River on fire in 1969 that stunned the Nation.

Lydia Mitchell has two passions in her Secret Garden-- soccer and the environment. But she's

still a Hound at heart from the Show Me State.

And that's a good thing for the Prairie Fire.

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