Written Senior Perspectives: Madison Hansen

Written Senior Perspectives: Madison Hansen

The 2016 Senior Perspectives is the 11th 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 2016 Senior Perspectives, click here.

Madison Hansen, Women's Track & Field
Hometown: Plano, Texas
Concentration: Neurobiology
House Affiliation: Cabot

Something happens when you become a senior on the team. Almost suddenly, the team and your sport take on more meaning that you ever thought possible as it hits you that this is your last season. It’s your last chance to compete in the sport you love alongside your teammates who have transformed into your Harvard family. It’s your last chance to make a difference on your team; your last opportunity to achieve your goals as a college D1 athlete. This is it. The team is yours and it’s your responsibility to lead the team to success.

But what started out as an excitement to hold a bigger role on the team, turned into a self-perpetuating pressure I felt to succeed. What if I don’t achieve my goals this season? What if I fail? What if I have to hang my jersey and seven pairs of spikes up with my head hung low, a brain full of “what ifs,” and a heart heavy with dissatisfaction and regret, wishing I had one more chance to compete?

These feelings heightened when I was suddenly hit with an injury at the beginning of my indoor season.  An inflamed inner bone in my ankle left me unable to sprint, run, jump or throw. My last indoor season with hopes of big personal records and a chance at Indoor Nationals turned into sweaty bike workouts alone at the top of Palmer Dixon and endless sets of single leg cleans and snatches. Recovery was extremely slow, and one week before our indoor championship competition, I still hadn’t put on a pair of spikes. With all of my outdoor season still ahead I had to choose: keep resting and have a shot at a healthy outdoor season or risk it all and compete to help my team win a championship.

I wish I could say this decision was easy. All I could think about was what if I don’t achieve my goals? Through some needed tough love from my coach, I realized the team was worth the potential sacrifice of my individual goals. A lot of people thought I was crazy for choosing to compete for a team who could probably win without me. But I reflected on my past three years with Harvard track and field and the legacy I wanted to leave as a senior and realized I simply would not be where I am today without my teammates.

Being a heptathlete, I am good at a lot of different events but not great at any one of them. That means in practice I get beat a lot. However, I am so grateful to have such talented and hard working teammates to challenge me in practice and in life every day. Through the grueling fall workouts where your mind begs you to stop, my teammates encouraged me to not just get through the workout, but to complete it at a high standard. They celebrated the small victories with me like when coach tells you, “that was pretty good” after a long jump tech session or when I turned in my last ever problem set. They divide themselves up covering all corners of the track to cheer me on during a dreaded 800, and they send me good luck texts when I go for job interviews. The 20-plus hours of practice a week, the diet, the Saturday morning practices every single Saturday, all of the sacrifices, the missed parties and events, the soreness, the fatigue, all of it would not have been worth it if I didn’t have my team. The friendships I’ve made are far more valuable to me than any personal medal. I realized the only thing I would truly regret at the end of my time here at Harvard was not giving back everything I had to a team that has given me so much.