When College second-years Lucca Abele, Anna Scott, Phoebe von Conta, and Maggie Allen are together, they often cannot hold a conversation without it eventually dissolving into laughter. In addition to being teammates on the cross country and track and field teams, the four live together, have overlapping academic interests, and take many of the same classes; all of which have fostered deep friendships that shape many aspects of their Oberlin lives.
The four initially met as first-years during cross country preseason, which required them to be on campus a month before orientation. Allen and von Conta both agreed that they remembered Abele because she is vegan and from Vermont. Scott was more reserved her first semester because she came to Oberlin knowing older students. However, she became closer with teammates and friends in her class as the year progressed.
Both running and the dynamic of the women’s cross country team have influenced their friendship, as they all have found a support system in each other and the team.
“The cross country team as a whole is an incredibly tight-knit group — I wouldn’t even call it a team, it’s more of a family,” said Allen. “I also think that the close friendships that we’ve fostered in the place that we live in together and the dynamics that we have formed outside of actual practice and competition have really helped develop trust because we know that we have each other’s backs at practice, during workouts, during races, and after.”
While the four live together, the quad has also become a space for all members of the cross country team to congregate.
“Our quad is kind of a revolving door for the entire cross country team,” von Conta said. “A lot of people come and go, so it does feel like a home base for the team.”
Similar to the supportive environment nurtured by the team, the four encourage each other to pursue new opportunities. Scott is particularly interested in visual arts and decorated the living space with her artwork.
“I remember this one specific night that I came home and I played a song sample for you guys of what I had been working on,” Scott said, speaking to her three roommates. “And immediately you were like, ‘Oh my God, you have to join the Conservatory.’ You all inspired me so much and were supportive and loved hearing my music [so much] that I got on my bike and immediately rode to the Conservatory to pick up an independent study for voice lessons form. The living space that we’ve created is incredibly supportive of all our diverse interests.”
Abele, von Conta, and Scott are interested in Environmental Studies and work on the Environmental Dashboard together. Last semester, von Conta took Practicum in Communication with Paul Sears Professor of Environ- mental Studies and Biology John Petersen, OC ’88. She later recommended it to Abele and Scott, who are in the course this semester and working together to create training material for the guest engagement staff at the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland. This semester, von Conta is working as a community voices manager, working closely with Petersen and students in the practicum.
“Even when I’m not interacting with Lucca and Anna, I’m still working on the same work that they’re doing,” von Conta said. “It’s an interesting way to stay connected and get experience with different technological tools I would never have used if I wasn’t a member of the [Environmental] Dashboard.”
While they share many academic interests, there is variation in terms of what each wants to pursue in the future. Allen in particular is interested in STEM but has learned more about Environmental Studies through her quad mates.
“Because the other three are all in similar classes, I’ve become more aware of things I probably wouldn’t have been if [they] weren’t all in those classes and talking about it,” Allen said. “And also it’s kind of nice because when [they] are all really stressed about something, I can sometimes be the voice of reason because I’m not experiencing it.”
Von Conta shared similar sentiments and felt that living with a group with shared academic fields and focuses has deepened her appreciation for her studies.
“We’re doing our thing along with each other, but each of us has our own special track even though we’re all interested in environmental studies,” von Conta said. “It makes my understanding of my potential major even deeper because I hear about the interests from different people, which affects how I approach my interests.”
Because they are so close, the four have often discussed what their friendship and Oberlin experience would be like if they had not met through the women’s cross country team.
“We’ve actually had this discus- sion many times,” Abele said, as the four broke into laughter. “We decided that some of us would be friends and some of us wouldn’t know each other at all. I think that cross country and track have completely shaped our experience at Oberlin, in terms of who we know and the structure of our lives and days because it is a lot of time with the same people.”
All four agree that living together as friends and teammates was the best decision for them because they understand the work that goes into balancing academic and athletic responsibilities and are able to hold each other accountable. This includes providing emotional support and waking each other up for 8 a.m. long runs on Sunday morning.
“Running with the same people that I live with is nice because I know [about] everything that’s going on in all areas of [their lives],” Allen said. “If I see [them] at practice and [they] seem really stressed out, I probably know why. I also understand how running affects the rest of your life. Whether it’s a great race or not a good workout, I know how to approach it. It’s also that [they] understand if I’m in a bad mood because of running, or in a good mood because we all understand why we do the sport.”
Reflecting on living in a quad as a whole, von Conta emphasized the importance of having a strong network.
“I truly feel like the most badass thing is having strong female friendship,” said von Conta. “I’ve never felt so empowered by the existence of other people [as I do] when I’m with the team. I feel that even more strongly because I’m part of a badass women’s cross country team that just won conference and is going on to do amazing things.”
Scott reflected on the importance of the close-knit family that cross country has created for them.
“As [Director of Track and Field and Cross Country] Coach Ray [Appenheimer] always says, ‘You chose to be here, to do this, and be apart of this amazing thing, so why not pour your heart into it?’” Scott wrote in an email to the Review. “This sport is more than just running a fast race; it is about the community and family that we have around us and the friendships and trust that we hold amongst ourselves.”
This philosophy holds true as the season comes to a close. All four are looking forward to a strong ending to the cross country season and the up- coming track season.
“During races, [Coach] Ray always says one team, one energy,” said Allen. “With the team, it’s not just during a race, your energy contributes to the whole, it’s in everything we do, everybody else’s energy is there to back you up and supporting you.”