Going the Distance: A cross country love story

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The typical college student may find it hard to juggle classes, a part-time job, sports, a social life and a relationship.

C.J. Albertson and Chelsey Albertson (née Totten) found time to not only maintain a meaningful relationship throughout college, but also plan a wedding. C.J’s friends have already started to plan a stag do in Prague before he officially gets married. We can only imagine what this will all involve, especially when your friends are in charge of planning it all.

C.J., 23, and Chelsey, 21, met at cross country camp nearly four years ago. They are now teammates, co-captains and, as of July, husband and wife.

Though the couple are now head over heels, they admit it wasn’t love at first sight.

It wasn’t until a few months after their initial meeting, when the pair were hanging out with a few teammates at C.J.’s house, that they realized there was a spark. C.J. says it hit him like a ton of bricks.

“All of a sudden, I couldn’t stop looking at her,” he says. “I felt like I had to get to know her more.”

The couple has a lot in common; Chelsey is studying health science with plans to go to nursing school and C.J. is pursuing his masters in physical education after receiving his undergraduate degree in exercise and wellness. They are both passionate about two things: running, and supporting each other.

However, it was their agreement on C.J.’s lack of style that led them to fall in love.

The first time they hung out, C.J. asked Chelsey to go clothes shopping with him because she always teased him for wearing basketball shorts. Chelsey knew it was a clever ploy to spend time with her.

“I totally knew because he doesn’t like to shop; he could care less about the clothes he wears,” she says with a laugh. “But I was all for it.”

After picking out clothes at Ross Dress for Less, C.J. and Chelsey spent the next three hours lost in conversation at Barnes & Noble.

“That’s where we say we fell in love,” C.J. says.

Love is always in style

Two years later, at a Barnes & Noble in Santa Clarita — Chelsey’s hometown — it was C.J.’s

indifference toward style that was a telltale sign he was about to propose.

C.J. drove nearly 200 miles with limited air conditioning through the sweltering central California summer for a surprise proposal. He got stuck in traffic and recruited Chelsey’s parents to help him stall. He arrived late, sweaty and nervous. Chelsey immediately knew something was up.

“He had a brand new outfit on; he was cleanly shaven,” she recalls. “I was like, ‘He wouldn’t just go out and buy new clothes just to surprise me’ … it had to be something special.”

Neither of them remember what he said when he got down on one knee, only that he managed to ask her to marry him and she said “yes.”

Though their stomachs were both in knots the day he proposed, they were both strikingly composed when it came to tying the knot.

Chelsey and C.J. had talked about marriage previously. In fact, Chelsey had already picked out the venue: a quaint, romantic ranch in Camarillo, California.

Though Chelsey had to juggle practice, cross country meets and finals while planning for the wedding, she says it wasn’t nearly as stressful as she thought it would be.

“The day of the wedding was so relaxed; it wasn’t stressful at all,” Chelsey recalls. “Even the lady that owns the venue told my parents when they were setting up, ‘I’ve never seen it so calm here;’ the whole vibe of the wedding was really laidback and fun.”

The guest list included 150 of the Albertsons’ closest friends and family, including their whole cross country team.

The couple concurs that they didn’t second-guess their decision, and they’re certainly not regretting it. Though getting married young, especially while in college, isn’t for everyone, the newlyweds couldn’t see it any other way.

Staying on track together

“This is my fifth year, so I had four years of not being married in college,” C.J. posits. “I might as well have the experience of being married in college.”

Chelsey agrees: “I can’t think of any cons of getting married young. When you know, you know; why wait around and beat around the bush? Just go for it.”

She says being married to C.J. has provided an immense amount of support on and off the track.

“We both know what we’re going through; we can talk to each other and give each other advice about certain situations,” she elaborates. “The best part is just having a companion with you all the time and having another person that’s your person.”

This is C.J.’s last season of cross country, though Chelsey still has one more to go. She says it’s hard to imagine running without him, but instead of having a co-captain, she’ll have a constant cheerleader.

“Being team captains together and going to practice every day together is something I’ve really grown to appreciate because it’s not common that people get to go and do what they love with their husband,” she says. “I think it’s so much easier to do it with him because we can both motivate each other and feed off of each other’s energy.”

C.J. says he and Chelsey are at the optimal time in their lives to get married.

“When we’re together, any sort of stress or problems we had from school or running, we could just talk to each other about it,” C.J. says. “We’re each fairly good at diminishing the stress in the other person’s life, so I would say that being at this time in our lives actually helped our relationship.”

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