From Ross to rings: An ASU cross country love story

The past four years have been quite the road for two newlywed Sun Devils.

C.J. Albertson, a redshirt senior for the ASU cross country team, admits he’s not much of a fashionista.

While this would often create a disadvantage for men in the romance department, his lack of interest in clothing ended up helping him find the woman of his dreams: his teammate and now wife of two months, redshirt junior Chelsey Albertson.

Sometimes, things just work out like that.

“Around October of her first year here, I became interested in her,” C.J. said. “We would always kind of joke that I didn’t have good clothes — I never really bought clothes — so I asked her, ‘do you want to come to Ross with me to help me pick out clothes,’ because she’s always wearing cute stuff. 

"So I just used that at as an in.”

When C.J. and Chelsey met at the beginning of his sophomore and her freshman season, the spark was quickly ignited.

It was that fall that he made the first move, and they went on their first date to the ever-romantic Ross clothing store. Despite the interesting choice for a first date location, both C.J. and Chelsey consider that day as the one they fell in love.

But the “falling in love” they spoke so fondly of didn’t happen at Ross.

It was the three hours that followed C.J.’s extreme wardrobe makeover, spent talking and enjoying each other’s company at Barnes & Noble, that solidified their mutual attraction.

“That was the moment when I realized she wasn’t just a cute girl, but I legitimately liked her," C.J. said. "So we kind of say that’s where we fell in love."

The wedding proposal two years later, although memorable, didn’t go quite as smoothly.

Although C.J. had everything planned out perfectly -- he even planned with Chelsey’s parents -- but the state of California had some other plans. The 189 mile journey between C.J.’s hometown in Fresno and Chelsey’s in Santa Clarita was significantly delayed by a fire, adding extra anxiety to the already stressful task at hand.

“I’m just sitting there in this fire calling her dad like, ‘I don’t know when I’m going to get there, but I’m still ready to propose,’” C.J. said.

The stress showed when he arrived at the perfectly predetermined rendezvous location: the local Santa Clarita Barnes & Noble.

“Right when I saw him I knew it wasn’t just a surprise visit," Chelsey said. "He had all new clothes I had never seen before, he was cleanly shaven, he was practically having a seizure shaking so much. He was so nervous and sweaty even though there was air conditioning in there, so I was like ‘yeah, he’s going to propose.'"

Nonetheless, C.J. got the job done by any means possible, just as he tries to day in and day out on the track: “I have no idea what I said — All I know is I said, ‘will you marry me,’ and she said, ‘yes.’”

The wedding, which was on July 10, in Camarillo, California, put the cherry on top of the three-plus year journey, as many of their current and former team members were on hand for the event.

Of that pool of Sun Devils in attendance, a few were involved in the wedding party. Ryan Herson, who graduated in 2015, took part on the groom’s side, while Shaina Corbin, also a recent graduate, and former teammate Makenna Fisher, both served as bridesmaids.

“It was like a team vacation, it was so fun, it was a highlight just having everyone together,” Chelsey said. “A whole weekend celebration and everyone got to be a part of it.”

Although head coach Louie Quintana was unable to attend the occasion, he expressed great pride in two of his top runners and how they've handled their journey together.

"They're really a great story, obviously they came here separately from each other with their own goals and careers in mind, and then met at Arizona State and that was their common bond," Quintana said. "Getting married this past summer, both of them have ascended to become highly-productive top runners in a power-five Division I program in the best conference in America. It's a neat story that they're both here leading the program."

Since that day, it’s been smooth sailing for the newlywed Albertsons, who live off campus in Tempe. The two “bring out the best in each other,” as Chelsey put it, both on and off the course, providing an inspiration to be better and work hard at what they love to do.

Sometimes, though, that motivation comes from sheer competitive nature.

For example, the idea that, in 2014, his then-girlfriend would be headed to NCAA spring track and field regionals in Texas without him served as motivation for C.J. to qualify for the regional meet, which he ended up doing.

“That is a big part of it, I’m super competitive,” he said. “I remember going into the last lap, and in my head I was like ‘shoot, I have to close down this last lap to qualify for regionals, because Chelsey’s going.’”

The same has been true for Chelsey, who wants to make sure she can qualify for nationals this year, if for no other reason than because her husband accomplished that feat last season, and very well could again in 2016.

“This year (Quintana) was saying he wanted us to make a motto for ourselves, something to get us pumped up,” she said. “Honestly, all I could think of was ‘I don’t want C.J. to go to nationals by himself. He’s probably going, and I want to go with him.’”

In a more overall sense, the unity as a married couple effects not only C.J. and Chelsey, but the entire cross country squad as team leaders.

“Now, I think we’re not just the seniors but we’re the really old, married seniors,” said Chelsey with a laugh.

“I don’t know if it directly affects them, but indirectly it can affect them, because we’re both leaders on the team and we spend time talking about how we can lead the team better,” C.J. added. “There’s certain times when we just kind of bounce ideas off of each other.”

Now that the winding path to marriage — a path much longer than the average cross country course, littered with twists and turns — has reached its finish line, the focus is on the road ahead.

And with one year left together on the same ASU cross country and track team that brought them together, the Albertsons are cherishing every moment, knowing that it’s rare to have such an opportunity as husband and wife.

“Someone pointed out the other day, ‘how fun and special that you get to be on the same team as your husband,’ and I had never really thought of it like that,” Chelsey said. “This is a special thing that I get to come every day to practice with my husband, and we get to do what we love together, and be with the people that we like, it’s fun.”


Reach the reporter at jeff.griffith21@asu.edu or follow @Jeff_Griffith21 on Twitter.

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