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Class of 2025 Athletic Recruits Say Potential Pandemic Postponements Won’t Faze Them

Many of Harvard College's athletes practice in facilities across the Charles River.
Many of Harvard College's athletes practice in facilities across the Charles River. By Kathryn S. Kuhar
By Benjamin L. Fu and Dohyun Kim, Crimson Staff Writers

Despite the Ivy League’s decision to cancel fall sports and uncertainty over future seasons amid the ongoing pandemic, many athletic recruits committed to the Harvard College Class of 2025 say they plan to stand by their choice.

Interviewed students said they approve of the league’s cancellation, even given its impact on activities they have devoted themselves to for years.

Owen M. Gaffney, a lacrosse midfield recruit from Los Angeles, Calif., said he agrees with officials’ justification for postponing the season.

“Everybody’s health and safety is the main priority, and it’s important for that to be the first priority, not sports just yet — as much as I’d kill for it. And I think we will play” in 2021, Gaffney said. “The first thing to get down is the health and safety of everybody and controlling this pandemic.”

Students like Gaffney have weighed competing offers from coaches across the country, including those in conferences that are proceeding with competitions amid the public health crisis. But he and other students say the Ivy League’s conservative approach will not dissuade them from choosing Harvard.

Gavin E. Shipman, a football prospect from Alabaster, Ala., said he would not consider changing his college decision even if the pandemic — and sports cancellations — continue into his freshman fall.

“There’s not much you can do; you control what you can and deal with everything else,” Shipman said.

Football recruit Ledger G. Hatch said he traveled to Cambridge to meet the team just before College students faced sudden evacuation from campus.

“It felt like it was meant to be just because everything got shut down like right after, so it was really, really nice,” Hatch said.

Several commits said superior academic opportunities were decisive factors in their preference for Harvard over competing programs amid the pandemic.

“Athletic careers are always going to come to an end, but the knowledge you gain over college is never going to die,” Gaffney said.

Mayowa G. Olibale, a volleyball recruit from Katy, Tex., concurred.

“My mom is an immigrant from Nigeria,” Olibale said. “Something my mom would hope for all of her children is to go to a really good school and just be able to provide for my family.”

Though their freshman sports experience remains in flux, many committed Harvard recruits are bonding with their peers in quarantine. Football recruit William “Jack” Gentle said they are already forming a tight-knit group.

“We have a group chat where we have gotten to know each other a bit, and we’ve got a GroupMe where some people play video games together,” Gentle said.

The team “has a culture of being welcoming like a true family, and that’s shown through everybody getting together, talking, being friendly, wishing each other Happy Birthdays and Merry Christmas,” Gaffney said. “I’m not sure if it’s accelerated because of the virus; I think it’s always kind of been a thing — especially with Harvard.”

—Staff writer Benjamin L. Fu can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @BenFu_2.

—Staff writer Dohyun Kim can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @dohyunkim__.

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