Reprinted from Centralight Winter 2016
"What would you do if you weren't afraid?"
Those eight words are senior soccer player Christie Chiesa's mantra. They were written in the journal of her late best friend and teammate, Josie Seebeck,
who was killed in an August 2013 car crash on the eve of their sophomore season at CMU.
"I think about her every single day, multiple times a day," Chiesa says. "We were like sisters."
Chiesa was driving when their car was clipped and rolled. She suffered a bruised lung and a brain hemorrhage. She was able to return to the classroom, but missed the entire 2013 soccer season. Seebeck, riding in the backseat, was killed. Another teammate, Maddy Bunnell, suffered a concussion.
This fall, Chiesa earned the Enberg Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award, presented annually to a senior Chippewa who has performed with distinction in his or her sport and is a team leader.
Chiesa is an exercise science major who carries a 4.0 GPA. She was the community service chair for the National Society of Leadership and Success and is immersed in a research project on the effects of interval training. Among her many endeavors was a medical mission trip with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students to Argentina.
That's the kind of work she and Seebeck used to talk about doing together, and it's the work Chiesa hopes to make her career.
She says the support she received at CMU and from "the three Fs" – faith, family and friends – made all the difference in her road back. "I can honestly say that without those three, it would have been a completely different picture."
Chiesa returned to soccer in the spring of 2014, healthy enough to play and with a grateful attitude.
"Just putting my cleats on for the first practice and passing the ball and having my team around me," she says. "It just felt like a piece of me was back."
"I think the piece I've learned from Christie is you have to play the cards that you're dealt," CMU women's soccer coach Peter McGahey says. "You learn from the circumstances that life presents, and you have to draw on your own courage."
Chiesa says the accident could have shaped her for the worst. Instead, she made sure it shaped her for the better – the way Josie would've wanted.
"She was as gritty as they come … and that was something we've instilled in our team that has made us so successful, particularly this year," Chiesa says.
What would you do if you weren't afraid?
"It's kind of guided my life because sometimes I live a little more on the safe side. It kind of reminds me to live life to its fullest," Chiesa says. "It's just keeping her with me, and every time we go out on the field, it's with the same grit, passion, perspective on what's important.
"That's keeping her alive."
The scholar-athlete award is named for CMU alum and sports broadcasting legend Dick Enberg, long a champion of academic achievement among student-athletes.