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Athletes Frustrated, Inconvenienced by Destruction of Cage

News Analysis

By Shira A. Springer

Shortly before the Thanksgiving break, a memorandum from athletic director William J. Cleary '56-'58 arrived in the mailboxes of every fall intercollegiate athlete. The subject of this particular notice was an evaluation of the Harvard athletic program.

"I am very interested in your assessment of the athletic program at Harvard.... [The questionnaire] will enable us to consider your thoughts as future policies are developed," Cleary wrote.

The fourth question on the evaluation form asked, "Are you satisfied with the facilities ties and equipment available in your sport?" More than week ago, most Harvard athletes would have answered yes. However, Carey Cage, a weight and training facility open only to varsity athletes, was still standing a week ago.

Now the answer needs some qualification.

When Carey Cage opened in the summer of 1992, the 5,300 square foot facility was filled with state of the art equipment and plenty of room to workout. The Cage boasted 13,000 pounds of York Olympic free weights and an additional 2,000 pounds of York Olympic rubber bumper plates. There were four power lifting platforms, a dumbbell area, three Schwinn Airdyne stationary bikes with computerized readouts, two sets of plyometric boxes, four Olympic bench presses, two Olympic military presses, eight power squat cages, a multi-hip machine, an eight station Lit/back machine, two calf machines, a hamstring machine, chin up bars and a stretching area.

Carey Cage was a main attraction on the tours of recruited athletes, an impressive display of Harvard's devotion to its Division I athletic programs. Harvard fields 41 athletic teams and the majority of these teams, whether in or out of season, have a weekly weightlifting routine. The Cage was easily the locus of the athletic community, a place to workout in the company of other intensely training athletes.

While some may worry about the loss of the athletic community's social focal point, most athletes are most concerned about completing their workout in the crowded confines of the Gordon Track and Tennis Center, which some have likened to a fishbowl. The new weight room is approximately a fifth the size of Carey Cage and remains dangerously crowded with equipment and people during the peak team practice times.

"We've had three people, including myself, already get hurt because everything is so crowded," said Amanda Williams, senior co-captain of the women's track team.

In order to alleviate the congestion that occurs during the early morning and mid-afternoon hours, Harvard's strength and conditioning coach Dominic Sardo plans to design a weight room schedule that accommodates all of the teams.

"That's what I'm in the process of doing right now--scheduling the teams," Sardo said. "It's going to take about a month to work out all of the bugs [with the new place] and get things rolling again."

The athletes agree that tight scheduling will be the key to making the new facility a workable alternative.

"It's a shame [the destruction of Carey Cage] because it was a very nice facility, but if we make some adjustments as far as our time schedules, we should be able to get all of our lifting in," said Ailey Penningroth, co-captain of the women's track team.

However, tight scheduling may not be enough to avoid the added difficulty of teams practicing out of season. It is only a matter of weeks before fall intercollegiate athletes begin their offseason training regimens.

"So far it hasn't really effected us as a team because we're only lifting one or two times a week," said Marco , a junior on the men's hockey team. "But as far as the offseason goes it's going to effect us a little more. You can't fit that many people in that small a weight room."

In the mean time, athletes are left to make the best out of a difficult situation. Freshman shotput and discus thrower Ken Hughes, who works out six to seven times a week, has had to make some minor adjustments.

"You have to really be patient and wait for things," Hughes said. "And you also have to be creative."

The wait and the creativity are necessary because athletes are dealing with a drastically reduced number of weight machines and lifting stations.

"It's hard even with a team of our size, which is 17 people, because there is only one apparatus from each type of lift," said Jessica Gelman, a junior point guard on the women's basketball team. "This is pretty pathetic for a Division I program."

Where once there were eight power squat cages, there are now three. Where once there were four lifting platforms, there is now one. Where once there were four Olympic bench presses, there is now also only one. Gone are the stretching area, the plyometric boxes, squat machine and Olympic military press benches.

To cut down on some of the overcrowding, hours for the weight room have been extended from 6:30 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Although the situation is only temporary, athletes and coaches are trying to accentuate the positive. Sardo believes the new weight room will cause short but intense workouts and allow for better team specific supervision.

Athletic director Cleary's memorandum was perfectly, rather than poorly, timed. Since the demolition of Carey Cage, athletes are thinking seriously about the quality of the athletic program and are concerned for the future.

"Look what's at the end of the tunnel," Sardo said. "A brand new facility that is state of the art and just as big as we had before."

But the end of the tunnel is two years and many Cleary memoranda away.

In the mean time, athletes are left to make the best out of a difficult situation. Freshman shotput and discus thrower Ken Hughes, who works out six to seven times a week, has had to make some minor adjustments.

"You have to really be patient and wait for things," Hughes said. "And you also have to be creative."

The wait and the creativity are necessary because athletes are dealing with a drastically reduced number of weight machines and lifting stations.

"It's hard even with a team of our size, which is 17 people, because there is only one apparatus from each type of lift," said Jessica Gelman, a junior point guard on the women's basketball team. "This is pretty pathetic for a Division I program."

Where once there were eight power squat cages, there are now three. Where once there were four lifting platforms, there is now one. Where once there were four Olympic bench presses, there is now also only one. Gone are the stretching area, the plyometric boxes, squat machine and Olympic military press benches.

To cut down on some of the overcrowding, hours for the weight room have been extended from 6:30 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Although the situation is only temporary, athletes and coaches are trying to accentuate the positive. Sardo believes the new weight room will cause short but intense workouts and allow for better team specific supervision.

Athletic director Cleary's memorandum was perfectly, rather than poorly, timed. Since the demolition of Carey Cage, athletes are thinking seriously about the quality of the athletic program and are concerned for the future.

"Look what's at the end of the tunnel," Sardo said. "A brand new facility that is state of the art and just as big as we had before."

But the end of the tunnel is two years and many Cleary memoranda away.

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