The 2018 Senior Perspectives is the 13th 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.
Annika Gompers, Women's Cross Country / Track & Field
Hometown: Newton, Mass.
Concentration: Integrative Biology
House Affiliation: Currier
I came into Harvard with a lot of expectations for my collegiate running career. Coming from a high school without a track team, I was so excited to join a group of women that would make my running more enjoyable and more successful. Neither of these happened immediately. I struggled with a series of injuries that kept me out for months at a time, and prevented me from racing the entirety of my sophomore and junior years. The challenge of reconciling the diverse approaches to running existent within our team and coaches also became evident. But I didn’t give up, and neither did my teammates. My senior year at Harvard has been vastly more successful; I’ve fulfilled several goals I have had since starting college, such as running in a relay for the first time and competing at the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships. I’ve also accomplished things with this team that were not outright goals – at least not anticipated ones – such as coming together as a team and making lifelong friends and memories.
Many teammates and coaches have lauded me for my perseverance over the past four years, in the face of persistent physical and emotional struggles. But the truth is that this tenacity is as much a quality that I have brought to my collegiate running experience as it is a quality cultivated by this experience itself. Every grueling bike workout and every tough conversation with teammates has both required and built tenacity. This year, things have finally come together, and it has been an incredibly validating and rewarding experience. I am grateful to my coaches for working with me to find creative approaches to training that allow me to stay healthy, and I’m grateful to my teammates for committing ourselves to creating a team culture that is positive for everyone. What I think is important is that these successes have validated not blind perseverance, but a commitment to relentless creativity. I’ve learned to not just complacently persevere (paradoxical as that may seem), but persist in creative, optimistic yet critical thinking, which I’ve discovered is the only effective solution to persistent challenges. This year, I have finally felt a part of the sort of team that my high school self imagined; I love working out on the track with my teammates, full of laughs and words of encouragement and grit, and I love seeing this work translate to races. I am all the more grateful knowing how much work has gone in to getting to this place, and there’s not a day that I run with a teammate by my side that I take for granted. Though my experience running at Harvard has not been what I had anticipated, I am so thankful for the friends, memories, and lessons that it has been a privilege to gain.