CINCINNATI — Most collegiate athletes don’t see themselves giving up their sport, let alone going for another one. But that’s what happened to Rachel Butler, as she made the courageous decision to leave the sport she loved because of injury. Along the way, she picked up a new passion.

What You Need To Know

  • Rachel Butler came to Xavier to play soccer

  • But after a series of concussions, she knew she had to walk away from the sport she loved

  • Butler wasn't ready to step away from competition, so after her soccer coach encouraged her, she joined the cross country team this fall as a senior

  • In Butler's first-ever cross country race, she won first place

​​​Butler grew up with the soccer ball at her feet. But now she’s trading in her cleats for tennis shoes.

“I never thought I’d be a runner," Butler said. "But here we are."

The Xavier senior never wanted to give up soccer, but after a series of concussions, she felt she had no choice.

“I knew in my heart that it’s not worth it," she said. "Like mentally and just for my overall health, I knew that I had to step away from it.”

So now instead, she finds herself back on the same field, training for cross country.

“It’s cool to see that I’m still able to get some time on this field. I love it so much and I wasn’t really ready to part with it," Butler said. "Though it may not have been how I wanted it in the start, I love where I am right now.”

Butler said her soccer coach came up with the idea.

“He connected me," she said. "He was like why don’t you do something, why don’t you try something that you really love to do? And I was like I don’t really know if I love running.”

But after training all summer, she now claims she loves the sport.

“It’s not as hard as I would ever expect it to be," Butler said. "It’s cool. I’m excited to see where I go from here.”

Now, she runs between 50 to 60 miles each week. While Butler claims she still struggles with pacing herself, that didn’t hurt her in her first-ever cross country race, crossing the finish line first.

“I crossed the finish line and I just bursted into tears," she said. "I just didn’t know!”

Now, Butler knows she has what it takes to be one of the best. But it doesn’t mean she still doesn’t struggle with the fact that she isn’t playing soccer

“The first few weeks I found it pretty tough to be around," she said. "Like coming and knowing you really had no opportunity to go on the field. So it was tough with that.”

But she said one of the biggest lessons she’s learned is sharing that struggle.

“Just by putting out there what I was struggling with, I learned how to face some of those adversities and how to take it and turn it to the best outcome that I can have," Butler said.

Now in the shadow of her soccer career, she has a new mindset.

“Building a program on two different sides is really cool," Butler said. "And it’s a different perspective that you have.”