By Tim Shoemaker
Allie Mikelson still does not know the identity of the mystery person who nominated her for the USA Field Hockey National Umpire Award, and she may never, but that’s fine with her.
Mikelson did not start out intending to be an official. The umpiring business kind of chose her and she ran with it. She got into it about nine years ago through the encouragement of some friends and mentors in the business and one door after another opened for her. She started with clubs and soon got into college and international officiating.
A former Emmaus High and University of Delaware player, Mikelson is one of five winners of national awards handed out by USA Field Hockey annually.
While also working as an Occupational Therapist and assisting Emmaus coach Sue Butz-Stavin when she can, Mikelson is building an extensive officiating resume. This past Fall alone, she worked the Ivy League Tournament, and each round of the NCAA Division I tournament, serving as a reserve umpire in the national championship game between North Carolina and Northwestern.
“I did not know that I was up for it until they released the nominations,” Mikelson said. “I was very surprised just to be nominated because I’m newer even to being a college and international official. I have been doing club (officiating) for quite some time. I still consider myself up and coming and growing and trying to take every experience that I can get. It was just an honor to be nominated. It was just cool to be nominated against that group.”
Among the other nominees for the National Umpire were Lauren Bruce, Katelyn Makovec, Chip Rogers and Kim Scott.
Mikelson was not able to attend Emmaus’s 1-0 win over Manheim Township in the PIAA Class 3A title game in November because she was officiating the NCAA Final Four in North Carolina. She went on to officiate in New Zealand and South Africa after the Fall season concluded.
Around the time she began officiating nine years ago, Mikelson had another life-changing moment. She was having a meal with Meg Mitchell, a former Emmaus High teammate and goalkeeper who played at Longwood. Mitchell, studying Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania at the time, noticed a lump on Mikelson’s throat and asked her to have a doctor check it out. That’s what friends and teammates are for.
“I was very lucky. I had a very common type of cancer (papillary carcinoma thyroid),” Mikelson said. “The way that it came about was rare. As you develop, your thyroid drops into place and develops a duct. I had a cyst growing inside of that duct. Within that cyst was the thyroid cancer tissue. I went to Penn Medicine (Perelman Center) for my treatment. I took the spring off of collegiate hockey. I was very fortunate that they were able to remove the entire cyst (without radiation).”
Mikelson’s cancer is currently in remission. She has scans every two years, and over time those scans have gotten further and further apart, which is a good thing. She was able to play again the following season, the Fall of 2015.
“It’s made me more grateful for everything,” she said. “It’s not an experience that a lot of people go through. It’s hard to describe unless you go through it.”
Although Mikelson technically is a cancer survivor, she has a difficult time calling herself that.
“A lot of people have experiences, either their loved one or themselves,” Mikelson said. “Working in healthcare, it can come up as often as daily. Being an occupational therapist, I think about that experience a little bit more, but also draw from it to relate to some of my patients and try to understand what they can be going through. I had such a lucky experience with it, the way that it was so contained and so quickly removed and not even needing radiation that I find it hard to call myself a cancer survivor because I got out of it so easy compared to some other folks that have a longer road ahead of them.
“It was a whirlwind of feelings that came on suddenly and also ended suddenly. It’s an interesting experience, for sure.”
Amanda Lawson, who established the Horizon Field Hockey Club in West Chester, earned the Grow the Game Award; Tiffany Cappellano of Oley Valley earned the National Coach Award; and Needham Youth Field Hockey in Massachusetts is the National Club of the Year.
Kaitlyn Wagner, who donated a kidney to help friend Ashley Renshaw of Pottstown, earned the Humanitarian Award.
Tim Shoemaker is a freelance writer.
Photo: Pan American Hockey Federation