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.
Ben Huffman, Men's Cross Country/ Track & Field
Hometown: Waxhaw, N.C.
House Affiliation: Kirkland
I began my running career 10 years ago as a seventh grader trying to get in better shape for baseball season. The night before my first practice, I read the Wikipedia article on the sport of cross country in an attempt to figure out exactly what I was signing myself up for. I have been incredibly lucky that the decade that followed that first practice has exceeded even my wildest dreams for what a sport could give to one person.
Competing for Harvard means something different to each athlete. For me, it means joining and contributing to a long tradition of excellence in everything one does. Whether it is in the classroom or in simple daily interactions, a Harvard student is expected to be exceptional. This standard of excellence can be intimidating for any athlete but was made easier for me by the support of incredible teammates. Through personal highs and lows in my race results I have always known I can count on these close friendships forged through long hours of intense training. As a freshman and sophomore, I learned from the older members of the team what it meant to be a Harvard student-athlete. More importantly, I found a group where I was welcomed and appreciated for more than simply my athletic ability. My teammates made me excited to practice every day and look forward to the time I spent running.
Between coaching changes, injuries, and team politics, my junior year was challenging on many levels. I was forced to reconsider my role on the team when I could not, for a time, contribute in the way I always had. This difficult time helped me to realize what being an athlete at Harvard is truly about. While competition is important, my time as a runner here has not taught me to win at all costs or value the result above all. Rather, I have learned that camaraderie, leadership and sportsmanship are the most important values in sport as well as life. I have learned this lesson through my worst days and my best and it is something I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I reflect on my time as a runner here as one which has allowed me to grow as an athlete and a person. The opportunity to represent Harvard for four years has been the product of my family, teammates, friends, and coaches challenging and supporting me to be the very best version of myself.