Other Penn Blog Entries from the UK:
First Update from Renata Cole
Second Update from John Carelli and Charlie Powell
About the Trip
Departing on June 14 from JFK Airport in New York City, the University of Pennsylvania men's and women's track and field teams embarked on their quadrennial trip to the United Kingdom. Every four years, the Quakers team up with the Cornell track and field teams to compete at several different meets against teams from across the UK. The teams will spend a little more than two weeks abroad.
Below are the updates sent in by Penn women's senior runner Anna Aagenes in chronological order, detailing her experiences from the trip. Above are links to each of the two previous Penn blog entries sent during the United Kingdom tour as well as results from some of the previous meets. Penn has just one meet remaining before they return on Wednesday. The Penn/Cornell duo will take on Oxford and Cambridge in a meet in which the American teams have never lost.
June 14th - 3:10 P.M
June 25th - 7:15 PM
Yesterday, we arrived in Cambridge after leaving our hosts from Birmingham. We stayed in dorm rooms at Fitzwilliam College, which is about a fifteen minute walk from the Cambridge track. The students at Fitzwilliam were getting ready to graduate this weekend, so there weren’t many other students staying on campus.
Last night, we were treated to our first “buttery” meal. The professors of the college sit apart from the students on an elevated table with elegant wooden chairs. The long tables (where the students would normally sit) were set up for our breakfasts and dinners. I wasn’t used to such sparking neither silverware nor the proper servers who were at the end of each table.
This morning, we met up with some of the Cambridge students to go “punting” in the Thames River! Punting is sort of like rowing except done by one person who is standing and pushing the boat with a long stick. According to Kathryn, it’s “one of the most inefficient ways to move a boat from one place to the other.” Fortunately, we only had one Penn/Cornell “punter” fall in the river, and no one was hurt, only soaking wet!
After punting, many of us ventured into the town of Cambridge, where students from the other colleges were getting ready to graduate. There are 31 distinct colleges at Cambridge with their own traditions, classes, and history. This town is absolutely beautiful and very quaint, and many of us snuck into the college grounds to see the stunning courtyards and cathedrals.
Some of us got the chance to see the Trinity College courtyard made famous in Chariots of Fire, where the impossible challenge was to make it around a near 400-meter square route before the twelve strikes at noon ended.
We found out that Cambridge, the grades are posted in front of everyone, so that at graduation, parents, students, and everyone else can see how you have done all three years. And we thought Penn had a lot of pressure!
June 26th – 11:35 PM
After spending the past couple of days in the town of Cambridge, we took our free day to sight-see in London! After arriving there via train, the group I was with hopped on the Underground Tube (British subway) to the Westminster stop so that we could see Big Ben and Parliament. A few of us rushed over toward St. James park to watch the famous “Changing of the Guards” at Buckingham Palace. Afterwards, I had the chance to see some amazing artwork at the National Gallery and modern art at the Tate Modern.
While I was over on the South End, I passed by Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and went to the incredible Borough Market. At the busting market, I saw the heart and soul of local, fresh food in England. I later made my way over to the West End shop and people watched in the Soho area. Unlike the rest of England, the food in London is very highly regarded and my friend and I got delicious Indian tapas (did you know the chicken tikka masala is the most popular take away (carry out) restaurant food in England?).
Later in the day, everyone reunited at a pub called “Fever Pitch” in London to watch the U.S.A. vs. Ghana game at 7:30. Ghana ended up coming out on top after the game was tied and went into overtime, so we returned to our Cambridge dorms disappointed with the World Cup loss, but satisfied with our fantastic excursion to London.
June 28th 11:43 A.M.
Yesterday, we made our final transition between universities. We left Cambridge for Oxford. After checking in to St. Hilda’s college (there are multiple colleges just like at Cambridge), we practiced at the infamous Iffley track, where Roger Banister broke the four-minute mile. I spent awhile walking around the track reading the history of this achievement. We were all sort of in awe of what an important track we were about to compete on…
Last night, some of the Oxford team members took our group to an exclusive athletic society house (sort of like a fraternity) where you had to dress in a tie or “smart” dress in order to be let in.
After practice, we spent the day exploring the town, doing final souvenir shopping, and seeing the local colleges. I also visited the beautiful Oxford Botanical Garden on my way back from going downtown.
Tomorrow is the final meet of our tour! It is being organized by the Achilles track club for the Penn Cornell match-up against Oxford and Cambridge. I cannot believe that this meet has been going on since 1952! (1982 for the women’s side). We are all really looking forward to the meet and to upholding the undefeated status of Penn/Cornell women’s track against Oxford/Cambridge.
June 30th – 5:15 P.M.
I just arrived back in Philadelphia after a very long trip home. Everything over the last few days has been a blur and I haven’t had much time to write. Just yesterday we had our last track meet of the 2010 UK tour held at Oxford’s Iffley track, attended the Achilles celebratory banquet and left St. Hilda’s College at 4:30 a.m. for our flight out of Manchester to JFK airport.
During the meet with Oxford/Cambridge, we were so lucky to have a beautiful, eighty-degree sunny day for our competition! (The weather was nothing but spectacular the entire trip). Once again, our Penn/Cornell girls and guys competed very well against the British, and both the men’s and women’s teams were victorious. On the women’s side, the Penn Cornell duo won almost all running and field events as well as both the 4x100 and 4x400 relays.
At the banquet later that evening, the trip came full circle, as Dr. Roberts (the man who greeted us in Wales) presented the awards for the individual winners as well as the beautiful wooden plaques for our team awards. We were given two of these giant plaques, and all four school crests (Penn, Cornell, Oxford, and Cambridge) were represented. One of these trophies traveled with the Penn squad back to Philadelphia, while the matching half will go to Ithaca, N.Y. with Cornell until the next UK tour four years from now.
One of the things in the Penn/Cornell and Oxford/Cambridge duos have in common is the way that all of us pride ourselves on tradition and honoring the history of this tour. We learned that the combination of Penn/Cornell teams is the longest standing Ivy-duo that tours the UK for competition against Oxford and Cambridge. During the dinner, all of the athletes, coaches, and meet organizers signed a book that had the names of all the Penn/Cornell and Oxford/Cambridge participants since the tour began. We all signed our names into a history book that went back decades, filled with Olympians and other track and field legends.
My teammates and I talked after the banquet about how we felt so honored and lucky to be a part of this competition. I personally hope to do whatever I can to make sure that this tour continues for future generations of Penn and Cornell athletes. I could not have asked for a better group of friends, coaches, and competitors, and the trip was an absolutely incredible experience.
A big thank you to Anna and the athletes for sending in these memories to Penn Athletics. It was not an easy task during a busy two week stretch.