The 2015 Senior Perspectives is the 10th in a series of annual collections. Senior captains and representatives of teams at Harvard have been invited to contribute viewpoints based on personal experience from both their senior seasons and full varsity careers at Harvard.
For a complete listing of 2015 Senior Perspectives,click here.
Will Geiken, Men's Cross Country and Track & Field
Hometown: Los Gatos, Calif.
Concentration: Environmental Science and Public Policy
House Affiliation: Currier
I remember laughing to myself when I received a form in the mail from Harvard track and field requesting athletic and academic information. “Hello Harvard” definitely crossed my mind. I knew the school only by its academic reputation, and I hadn’t really considered the Ivy League when looking at schools to run for. Fortunately, my dad told me to be open to everything and I sent the return form. Six months later I flew out to visit and was sold well before the weekend had ended. The team that I met consisted of highly talented young runners who were a lot of fun to be around. I saw it as a program on the rise, and I wanted to be a part of it.
As might be expected with a young team, it took some time for that potential to show. My first two years on the team were full of mixed results, and there was a fair amount of both elation and frustration for everyone. That isn’t to say that I think those years were any less meaningful to me. If anything, they gave me the motivation to work as hard as I did to improve. It’s a clichéd phrase, but I learned more from my failures than my successes. My first two years were also important in developing close friendships on the team that, barring some tragedy, will last far longer than the four years I’ve been at Harvard. The distance runners on the team make training a pleasure, even when it’s miserable. Running 14 miles on a treadmill is only enjoyable with the company of friends to pass the time, and it’s easier to laugh as hail flies into your eyes on the outdoor track if there’s someone to laugh with. For the same reason, cruising along a trail on a beautiful fall day is even more fun when there’s someone to cruise with you. The shared experiences that I have with my teammates are memories that I will carry for the rest of my life, and I’m thankful to each of them.
During my junior year, we finally hit some of the team results that we knew we were capable of, and that November I had the privilege of helping the cross country team qualify for the NCAA Championships for the first time in 34 years. The potential that I saw on my visit was realized, at least partially, in an experience that is one of my collegiate highlights. That season was followed by fairly successful indoor and outdoor track seasons, which left me excited by the team’s prospects as we headed into my senior year.
However, one of the more important lessons that sports can teach is that things don’t always go the way you want them to, even if you work hard. I had hoped that the cross country season would follow in the trajectory of my junior year; and although there were some individual successes for everyone, the end result was less than we were capable of. I had a hard time dealing with the disappointment. I wanted to help lead the team to continued success, and instead I had struggled to run to my own capabilities. But that experience hasn’t altered my feelings towards running. If anything it served to cement them. I have never run strictly for race results. I run because I enjoy it. Great races are an occasional benefit, and taking the down races is just a part of the sport.
As I head into my last outdoor track season I have some big goals that I’d like to accomplish, but hitting them won’t make or break my season. Regardless of the outcome, practicing and going on runs will always be something I look forward to. Being on this team has been the defining aspect of my time at Harvard, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I made friends that I will cherish for life, I’ve been able to compete at the highest levels of collegiate competition, and I have done it running for a school and team that I am immeasurably proud to represent.