The Harvard track and field team embarked on its trip to Ireland and England this week, touring the two countries and also competing in a pair of international meets. The Crimson will first take on the University of Limerick and the Irish Select Team Saturday, June 20, before heading to Oxford, England for the historic Harvard-Yale versus Oxford-Cambridge meet Monday, June 29. The meet will be the 45th in track and field's oldest international series that dates back to 1899.
Along the way, five track and field student-athletes will chronicle the trip with blog posts found below. (Photo courtesy Paige Kouba)
Monday, June 29 - Paige Kouba '16
The day of the 45th Harvard/Yale-Oxford/Cambridge track meet dawned much like any other on our two-week tour: with a delicious traditional English breakfast. Today, though, we were fueling up for competition as we prepared to take on our historic rivals in the oldest continuous amateur athletic contest in the world. At 10:15 a.m., team H-Y headed down to Oxford's Iffley Road Track, the site of Roger Bannister's historic sub-four mile, to prepare for the meet.
After the speeches were made and team photos taken, we had a bit of down time before the events got underway. As I reflected on the past two weeks of our stay in Europe, the track season that got us there, and the years I have spent with Harvard track and field, it finally hit me that this would really be the last meet I would share with the seniors on the team. The realization added an extra dimension to the anticipation I felt as the starting ceremonies began.
The meet itself was as fun as any I have experienced--with the sun shining and our friends and families filling the stands, it really felt like a celebration of athletics. It was different from other meets in a few respects. For one, the starting gun was so loud that many of us mistook its report for ceremonial cannon fire. Additionally, since it was a good old-fashioned dual meet, the number of competitors in each event was comparatively low, but even the two-man 10,000 meter was contested with good sportsmanship and enthusiasm. Whitney, Dana and I competed in the 5,000 meter, securing a victory and two personal bests. Overall, Harvard/Yale came away with the men's, women's and combined titles, and we cheerfully grumbled about having to lug all three of the heavy trophies back home.
We spent the rest of the afternoon celebrating, reminiscing and enjoying the last precious hours with our soon-to-be-ex teammates, Yale and Harvard alike. At the conclusion of the meet, Coach Shoehalter of Yale said it well, "We had truly come together over the course of our travels to become one team." At the awards banquet that evening, we gave the traditional toasts to the President and the Queen, and enjoyed a wonderful four-course meal and even better conversation. The day was without a doubt the high point of what had been a beautiful journey. We'll all be going our separate ways, some of us parting just for the summer and some of us beginning a whole new chapter of life, but this trip and the year as a whole could not have ended more perfectly.
Sunday, June 28 - Billy Looney '15
Today was our first full day at the University of Oxford. Our day began with a proper English breakfast, a meal we have come to love on our European adventure. Following breakfast, the Harvard-Yale squad ventured to the track at Iffley Road for practice in preparation for tomorrow's competition against Oxford and Cambridge. This track is well known, as it was the site of the first sub four-minute mile, run by Sir Roger Bannister in 1954. The track is full of commemorative relics from Bannister's historic run.
Following our brief workouts and lunch, we had the afternoon to explore the university and surrounding town. We explored the school's many colleges, some of which were founded as early as the thirteenth century. The full team met up again for dinner in the dining hall of St. Hilda's College where we shared stories of what each of us saw and did throughout the day. After dinner, many of us took to the River Cherwell for a few hours of punting. We were much more successful at punting today than when we first tried it in Cambridge a few days ago. Though we tried to stay off of our feet as much as possible today in preparation for tomorrow's competition, we made the most of our day in Oxford. We're really looking forward to the meet, and I'm confident that the Harvard-Yale team will leave victorious.
Saturday, June 27 - Hannah Mayer '15
Saturday started off with some light runs and full English breakfasts at the Fitzwilliam College dining hall before departing Cambridge University. On the way to Oxford, the HY squad stopped at the beautiful country home of Paul Wilcox, a Cambridge Athletics alum and Achilles Club member. He and his family welcomed us to their estate for a barbecue and an afternoon of outdoor activities. The amazing weather permitted us to swim in their natural pool, walk through their fields, boat on their pond and play tennis, basketball, cricket and croquet on their respective courts. Many athletes brought their competitive spirit to the leisurely day; the most exciting event ended up being one of the croquet games, as a slew of Harvard athletes were gunning for the win and they gathered a crowd of spectators with their fervor. Our assistant coach Jesse thought he had won and strutted off the court victoriously when all the while, a knowledgeable Cantab pointed out that he hadn't executed one of the shots correctly. This led to our sophomore hammer thrower Josh coming up for the win vey humbly and deservedly. Quite the upset after almost two hours of play!
Friday, June 26 - Allison Morrison '16
On our third and final day in Cambridge, we spent the morning exploring the shops and farmers' market-like bazaar in Market Square. The market, which attracts a variety of vendors every day throughout the summer, offers everything from freshly baked pastries to England flag underwear. After some coffee from Cafe Nero (the Starbucks of England) and mandatory souvenir shopping, we headed back to Fitzwilliam to relax before practice.
Today's practice marked the last non pre-meet practice ever for many of the seniors and for the rest of us, the last of the year. This was the first time this trip in which all of the Harvard and Yale athletes trained at the same place and time. The pole vaulters vaulted next to the throwers, while the mid-distance boys crushed their repeat 200s and the jumpers and hurdlers ran through their respective events, all in preparation for Monday. I felt a great sense of comradery with all of my teammates, both Harvard and Yale, and I can't wait to let that propel us to victory on Monday for the big meet! Tomorrow we will head to Oxford and the countdown to HYOC begins.
Thursday, June 25 - Autumne Franklin '16
On a warm and sunny Thursday morning at 8:50 a.m., on Huntington Road, the local Cambridge people found seven Harvard student-athletes sweating and panting. This, however, was not a morning session... They were sprinting down the way to Cambridge Station for a train to London. This group was trying to do the impossible to make it 4 miles away before their 9:21 departure.
"Let's get a strong start! Use the decline," I yelled to encourage the girls onward.
We ran down hills, sped walked up the slopes, defied traffic laws and kept our eyes darting for taxis but after 10 minutes we were slowing down and only halfway there.
"It's over," said Madison Hansen. But it wasn't over. It's never over for these girls.
Finally, we found a car big enough for us all, hopped in, and sped to the train station. At 9:13 a.m. we arrived to long lines and unsympathetic, unfamiliar faces. Antsy, but hopeless, we got in line and prayed. Most of us had our tickets printed by 9:19 a.m. and sprinted to the train. I knew we had left two behind so I tried to sweet talk the train lady. She wasn't budging and after two minutes, she gave us an ultimatum, get on or get off... We had to get on.
But then! Another train employee yells, "Are these your friends?" We poke our heads out and see Gabrielle and Jackie pressing hard down the platform.
At 9:21 a.m. we were all in our seats, on our way to London sporting a look of confidence and success #GoCrimson.
Once we arrived, we first took a picture with the posed platform 9 3/4 from Harry Potter, then jumped on the underground tube to see Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, the Eye of London, and finally enjoyed lunch while admiring the London tower bridge and the Swiss Re Tower. We then visited Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park and walked along the river down the mall to Trafalgar Square where we hugged and kissed on the lions and tested our luck with pick pocketers.
It was then time for shopping at the extravagant Herrods and our favorite neighboring shops. Next we tubed to Covent Garden to check out the market and had dinner at Jamie Oliver's. I enjoyed my first fish and chips and it was delicious!
One thing was left undone. We hadn't signed the wall at Abbey Road! We crossed like the Beatles, just a bit less smooth, signed the wall and headed back to Kings Cross station for a relaxing train ride back to the University of Cambridge.
Tuesday, June 23 & Wednesday, June 24 - Paige Kouba '16
Our visit to the University of Birmingham was short but sweet: the Harvard-Yale team was there for less than 48 hours in total, but it was enough time to become friends with our hosts, and of course get some good training in. On Tuesday, after a morning practice on campus, we all loaded into the buses (or "coaches," as our British hosts would say) and drove to nearby Warwick Castle, a medieval stronghold built in 1068.
Originally designed to keep people out, the fortress now has all manner of tours, shows, food carts and other attractions to draw visitors inside. We broke up into small groups and went exploring, marveling at the full-scale trebuchet, the peacock garden complete with topiary hedges, the ancient wheelhouse powered by the River Avon, and the mews housing regal birds of prey from around the world--and all that before even entering the castle proper.
After the show, we returned to Birmingham for a last dinner with our hosts. Molly, Sarah and I stayed with Alice and Ruth, who made us pizza and talked to us about the differences in British and American track teams. The next morning they helped us carry our heavy bags back to the bus, and we took a few quick pictures before bidding them farewell and heading to Cambridge.
So far in Cambridge we've had time for a run along the River Cam, a quick game of croquet, and some strength work at Churchill Playing Fields before dinner. Some of our friends from Yale joined the Harvard mid-distance boys and the distance girls to learn General Strength 2, our most formidable routine. The eighth minute of full-body plank was killer, but I think it's fair to say that the shared suffering brought us all closer. In any case, after all that, I'm ready to turn in and rest up before our track workout tomorrow. I'm looking forward to a great night's sleep in the dorms at Fitzwilliam College, and even more excited for our day trip to London tomorrow afternoon. Eager to see what else England has in store!
Sunday, June 21 - Billy Looney '15
Following an exciting day of competition against a very strong Irish select team yesterday, we unfortunately had to say goodbye to Limerick. We loaded the bus this morning and headed for Dublin. The coaches gave us the opportunity to explore the city on our own and experience all that Dublin has to offer prior to our flight to London this evening. We were dropped off at Trinity College, the oldest university in Ireland. While there, some of us took the opportunity to see the Book of Kells, an illuminated gospel book created in 800 AD. This book is widely regarded as one of Ireland's finest national treasures so to see it first hand was something truly special.
After a brief tour of the campus, we broke into small groups and made our way to Grafton Street, the main shopping center of Dublin in search of lunch. A few of us found a small pub that was showing the Wexford vs. Kilkenny hurling match on television and tried to understand the rules of that sport while we ate our fish and chips. Following lunch, the small groups traveled to the other sights of Dublin including Dublin Castle and Merrion Square. We also made our way to central Dublin and saw the memorial to the victims of Bloody Sunday, a 1920 massacre amidst the Irish War of Independence. Following our explorations, we met back at Trinity College and departed for the Dublin airport. We all thoroughly enjoyed our time in Ireland and are looking forward to the English portion of our trip!
Saturday, June 20 - Hannah Mayer '15
Today was the day of our competition at University of Limerick - the first day that Harvard and Yale united as a real team! We spent the day (through both rain and shine) on the beautiful UL track surrounded by rolling green hills that Ireland is famous for. The meet included some solid competition, but most importantly, the Harvard-Yale team came together and supported one another really well. After getting to know one another through traveling, practicing and spending time together all week, it was nice to finally compete side by side against the University of Limerick and Irish Select teams. Not only were our teammates giving plenty of support but also were our Irish competitors. They cheered us on and traded all sorts of amazing Irish gear with us. It was quite the afternoon!
That evening, the UL team was kind enough to host a banquet at its swanky sports dining club overlooking the track. This formal event was such a delight with the Irish, Harvard and Yale teams all mingling and bonding throughout dinner. The speech portion of the dinner consisted of many odes to the great Michael Hayes, professor of chemistry at UL who orchestrated this trip to Limerick for the last 25 years after starting a similar tradition at University of Birmingham 30 years before that. As this is Michael's last year of organizing the visit and meet, we brought him out in style with a lively disco DJ'd by the legendary Ber. We all danced the night away and thoroughly enjoyed our last full day in Limerick.
Friday, June 19 - Allison Morrison '16
After a 9 a.m. pre-meet practice and pancake breakfast (in Ireland, pancakes are what we consider crepes), we set off on our long-awaited journey to the Cliffs of Moher, beautiful and iconic cliffs in southwest Ireland that rise high above the Atlantic Ocean. An early practice led to a sleepy bus ride, but in between drooping eyelids we caught glimpses of the lush, pastoral expanses dotted with beautiful country homes beyond the road. The rolling green hills looked almost fluorescent against the grey sky.
Many cows also find homes on the sprawling pastures. Everyone was still eagerly awaiting the cliffs until one of my teammates pointed out that a large number of the cows were lying down. This apparently meant it was going to rain—the cows know. Good thing I forgot my raincoat… Alas, when we arrived to the cliffs, we found ourselves in a sea of fog and mist, only able to hear the crashing waters below. We still had a good day though, spending time with our teammates and enjoying the virtual tour.
We have now returned to campus for some R&R (watching Leap Year of course, set in Ireland, to get a better view of the Cliffs of Moher) before our first competition of the trip tomorrow against the University of Limerick Select team.
Until next time, cheers,
Thursday, June 18 – Autumne Franklin '16
Two of Harvard's hurdlers had a rough start to their morning. Jarvis and I got a late start to breakfast this morning and had a hard time finding the famous Living Bridge that drops you right into food heaven. One wrong turn after the next and we found ourselves twice as far away from the base of the bridge. We ventured across another bridge, through an apocalyptic dorm village, through trails and shrubbery to right under the bridge. We could taste the full Irish breakfast but couldn't get onto the bridge unless we scaled it for 20 meters, then hopped on. Jarvis punked out… we tried our luck through some thorny bushes but quickly gave into the longer route.
The Harvard and Yale teams joined for breakfast at the Stables then headed to test out the competition track.
Our buddy Bear, a University of Limerick entertainer, took the female sprinters on a tour of the Limerick Sport Campus, the National Museum of Self Portraits and joined us for lunch back at Stables.
After lunch, we hopped on the bus to Limerick City to explore King John's Castle, St. Mary's Cathedral and to do those things that tourists do.
Then the teams of Yale, Harvard and the University of Limerick Selection enjoyed a BBQ, again at Stables, then a disco DJed by Bear! He taught us Irish dances and played our favorite tunes. We enjoyed ale, cider and dancing with the Irish.
Today was a great official start to this trip to Ireland. Tomorrow we head to The Cliffs!
Cheers ma dears,
Autumne Franklin '16