By Riley Omonaka '24
Amber Chaffee is the ideal teammate. Through and through, the Linfield University cross country team member is passionate about education and about running. Chaffee is a caring, competitive and goal-oriented individual, all of which contribute to her success in the classroom and in races.
“I’ve missed being in a competitive environment and running with my teammates,” says the sophomore from Tacoma, Washington. “I trained over quarantine, but its not the same by myself.”
Though being away from competition has been difficult, Chaffee is glad to be back with her team, simulating races with time trails in practice. Chaffee stayed in shape during the prolonged quarantine by going on several mile-long runs and lifting weights. She was fortunate to have a running companion, her mom, to stay in shape.
In fact, Chaffee owes a lot to her parents, from whom she gained her competitive spirit and love for running.
“They used to take me on runs when I was 9 years old and I just never stopped. Now look where I am,” Chaffee says.
For Chaffee, running does more than feed her passion and ambition as an athlete. It has also helped her make many new friends.
Says best friend and teammate Makayla Erickson: “There have been times when I could not have gotten through practice without Amber.”
Chaffee is “an empathetic teammate,” Erickson says. “She makes the effort to get to know new people and put herself out there.”
Chaffee can be seen during practice chatting with freshmen on long runs and lifting up her teammates. Her enthusiasm is infectious. Chaffee’s reliability is both an asset and a comfort for her teammates. This fall, she has stepped into a leadership role on the team and on campus. Chaffee makes new athletes and students feel welcome and accepted.
“Amber invites the freshmen to hang out in a COVID-safe way,” Erickson says.
Her interest in building relationships is what Erickson believes will make Chaffee a great teacher.
“She’s a great person, a great teammate and a great best friend. Amber will push you until you believe in yourself.”
As Chaffee pursues a double major in English literature and secondary education, she demonstrates immense drive and discipline.
Once she graduates from Linfield, she hopes to teach high school English literature. A book lover, her favorite genre is sappy romance, though she’s always open to new finds.
“My favorite thing is when I get into a book I wasn’t expecting to like,” Chaffee says.
Pursing a double major while competing in collegiate sports is no small feat. Chaffee is goal-oriented and likes to focus on the finite details. She balances a full plate of coursework while making time to establish new friendships and care for the friends she already has. Chaffee does not cut corners in relationships, school, or athletics. Those attributes make her tremendous student and skilled competitor and one day should transform her into an amazing teacher.
“I’ve wanted to be a teacher since the second grade. I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. I just happen to enjoy books, too,” Chaffee says.
Quite frankly, her friends can’t imagine Chaffee becoming anything but a teacher, also.
“She’s so outgoing and very good with people and names,” Erickson says.
Chaffee seems to balance opposites in all aspects of her life. Bookish, but outgoing. Fierce competitor yet compassionate teammate. A disciplined student, but a goofy college kid. In every aspect of her life, Chaffee puts outs maximum effort. Her opposing character traits churn together, forming an amazingly well-rounded individual.
One aspect of her personality that has no opposite: her optimism. Throughout the pandemic and the obstacles life keeps presenting, Chaffee remains a ‘we-can-get-through-this’ kind of person,” according to Erickson. In spite of the pandemic, Chaffee has trained hard and stayed focused. She has not relented her positive attitude to the uncertainty.
Reliable, determined and passionate are all words that could describe Chaffee, yet none alone are enough. Ten different people might give 10 different descriptions of Chaffee. All of them would be correct, all would be optimistic. Chaffee is a well-rounded and dynamic individual who continues to grow and achieve. There is nothing she cannot accomplish if she sets her mind to it.
Kelly Bird, Amber Chaffee and Ryan Gardner