The task is simple for sophomore Becky Christensen and the Harvard track and field team this weekend: beat Yale. Playing alongside the Bulldogs this June in England, however, will be much more difficult.
Tomorrow marks the Harvard track and field team’s first and only home meet of the season, a competition against long-standing rivals Yale. Started in 1891, the annual match-up has seen the Crimson win 60 meets and the Bulldogs take 47, with one tie.
The schools are not only competing to win the meet, but to earn spots on the combined Harvard-Yale squad’s trip to England this June.
Every two years, Oxford and Cambridge put together a team to challenge Harvard and Yale in the world’s oldest continuing international intercollegiate competition, dating back to 1894. The location alternates for each meet, and this year it will be held in England. On both sides, traditional rivals come together as teammates in a historic U.S. versus UK meet. This June, the teams will compete to claim the Naughton Trophy, won by Harvard-Yale in the most recent competition in 2005.
Performances this weekend will decide which Crimson and Bulldog athletes will make the combined team. The winners of each event will automatically earn a spot, while other high-placing finishers will be selected by coaches to join the squad. The Harvard-Yale team will take the highest-placing athletes of the day, but each school must comprise at least 1/3 of the England-bound group.
Since the trip abroad only occurs once every four years, this is the only opportunity to compete in the UK for current athletes. With the weight of this weekend’s meet, Crimson competitors have stepped it up in practice hoping to help the team triumph over its rival and earn England spots.
“I definitely know that among my throwing group, we’ve been pushing each other a lot more recently because we all know that this is an important meet,” said sophomore thrower Neville Irani. “It’s an extra drive to work harder. When you have something like this in the immediate future you can’t help but think about it, and it just motivates you even more.”
Along with the drive to travel this summer, the Crimson men aim to break the Bulldogs’ four-year winning streak in the yearly meet.
On the women’s side, Harvard beat Yale during the indoor season in an evenly-matched meet. Both captains anticipate another close contest this weekend.
“It’s so close that one person performing well or performing poorly could really make the difference,” senior co-captain Sally Stanton said. “It’s impossible to tell who’s going to win. We’re going to really have to fight for it, but it will be good.”
“Right now it’s just a really hard meet to predict, but I’m really optimistic,” senior co-captain Julia Pederson said. “I think we can take them.”
In addition to continuing the annual rivalry and determining England competitors, this Saturday marks the first meet at McCurdy Track since its renovation. The Crimson is eager to test out the new outdoor surface, as the former track was not a team favorite.
“The old track was honestly the worst track I’ve ever run on in my life,” said senior co-captain Sean Barrett. “That’s no joke.”
Competition will be fierce this weekend as Harvard strives for the usually contradictory task of beating Yale and competing to be Bulldog teammates this summer.