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By MALEA MARTIN

CLAREMONT, Calif. — For student-athlete Brooklyn Button, cross country doesn’t just mean lanky high schoolers in too-short shorts trudging through mud. It doesn’t just mean heaving over the chalky white finish line, or a cult of semi-crazy people who voluntarily participate in what other sports use as punishment.

To Button, cross country means something different. “It was an immediate way to make friends with people in a new place,” the Claremont McKenna College freshman said.

Button was born in Kentucky, grew up in Iowa, discovered a passion for running in the Netherlands and today has settled in California. “Our end-of-the-year cross country competition was always in Switzerland, so we got to race in the Swiss Alps,” Button added casually of her four years running cross country in the Netherlands. If American cross country included a race in the Swiss Alps each year, perhaps “crazy cult” wouldn’t be as common a characterization for cross country.

But for Button, crossing borders for cross country was simply the norm. “We competed against other international schools every weekend, so we would travel to Paris, Luxembourg, Belgium, Frankfurt or other places. So our weekends were often really busy, but it was really cool to be able to travel because everything was just a short bus ride away,” Button said in an interview in CMC’s sports pavilion before her afternoon practice.

Despite the international perks Button experienced while running cross country abroad, she says she finds herself compelled not to study abroad while at CMC. “I really have checked that box in my life and right now I am looking for an inclusive community,” Button said. “That inclusivity is what I really like about the cross country team here (at CMC), and I don’t think I would like missing a season whether it be track or cross country.”

Cross country running in the Netherlands versus the United States was far from the only difference that Button experienced while living abroad. “Something that was really prominent at the time was the gay rights movement, so there’d be marches for LGBTQ+ in Amsterdam, which was really cool to see it then happen in the U.S.,” she recalled. Button also had a great experience with her school’s student ambassador program. “Being at an international school, we would get so much turnover of new students,” Button said. “We would have correspondence going over the summer, and then when the new students arrived we had a week full of orientation planned for them. It was really unique to meet so many people from different countries.”

As grateful as Button is for her unique experience growing up, she is happy finally to feel settled. “I definitely did not consider studying at a university abroad, because I wanted to stay close to home after a pretty scattered high school experience,” she said. When it came time to choose which college to attend, Button found herself drawn to CMC for its size. “I loved the fact that if I went to a smaller school I would be able to run.”

Button grabbed her backpack full of mathematics problem sets, almost-full binders and assignments with impending due dates. But instead of heading to the library, she walked toward the track with a pair of running shoes and a smile. She had practice to attend, and teammates with whom she trains and competes — and she was not about to let them down.

(Written by Malea Martin; Oct. 18, 2018)

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