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Year away gives Medema a new perspective on running
By Colin McWhertor
Camille Medema

Camille Medema (Grand Rapids, Mich.)

Camille Medema knows the value of a team. The standout Calvin track and cross country runner was able to reflect on her life as a runner in taking a semester off. Medema, a senior, spent the fall semester of her junior year in Honduras on the Calvin Spanish study abroad program. She returned to cross country last fall and was part of a team that placed 17th nationally in NCAA Division III.

The study abroad experience was new for Medema not only because of the culture she was immersed in, but also because it was the first time she had ever missed a season of running. When she looks back on the experience, Medema realizes what a great choice she made. "It was a good thing for me to do," she said. "I needed to spend some time away, look at other possibilities in my life. I was also able to speak Spanish, which I needed."

Medema, a graduate of Grand Rapids Christian High School, is in Calvin's nursing program and plans to attend school for a fifth year, using her final eligibility for cross country this fall. "The decision was really a matter of my major," she said. "I knew I would need to go a fifth year to have Spanish and nursing, so I decided to get the Spanish in Honduras." Medema views the semester away as a connection to a life after college and running. The time helped her begin to think of her future: "I will look into working with Hispanic populations because it is a growing need in the United States. I am also interested in working abroad if the right situation comes up—now I have the experience to base my choices on."

After her semester away from Calvin, Medema gained a new perspective on what the team meant to her life. "I would talk to the team from Honduras and realize how much I missed it. They would be preparing for a race and I wasn't part of it for the first time. It was a strange feeling for me. But I knew what I was doing was very important in my life."

Medema returned to track in the spring of 2005 and qualified for the national meet in the 800-meter run, then started the cross country season by taking first overall in the MIAA Jamboree in September with a time of 18:43. She was an integral part of a Calvin women's team that reached the national meet again after a year's absence and has made nationals 16 out of the past 17 years.

"It was an exciting year," Medema said. "Things were up and down and the final meet was chaotic, but it was a great season overall. It was great to be a part of the team again."

Medema went from an underclassman on the team to being a leader upon her return, as Calvin's team featured nine freshmen runners this past season. "The season was great from the beginning; I loved all the freshmen," she said. "I was having a lot of fun, and I surprised myself a little bit."

So Medema will return to a team that brings all but one of its top-10 runners back. "I am really excited for next year. I now realize how much I love running and the whole team, something I took for granted before. The friendship and fellowship this team has is unmatched; I am glad to be able to enjoy it for one more year."

But most importantly for Medema, she has a new perspective on the things important to her life, and to her future.