Men's and Women's Track and Field: Day-by-Day in the UK

Other Penn Blog Entries from the UK:
First Update from Renata Cole
Second Update from John Carelli and Charlie Powell

Birmingham Meet
Oxford/Cambridge Meet

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.

Senior Anna Aagenes from the United Kingdom
June 14th - 3:10 P.M
The Penn teams safely arrived in the UK! We flew into Manchester airport this morning, and after a long wait at customs, we took a bus to our first destination - Bangor University in Wales. The Welsh countryside is absolutely stunning - though most of us were exhausted and sleeping during the bus ride over! Our host here, Dr. Roberts (former Chief of Wales) told us that Bangor University is 125 years old and has a rich history. He also recommended some pubs and attractions we should visit while in Wales.

The university (or "uni" as they call it here) is up on a hill, so we have already gotten in a good workout moving in our luggage! The girls and I each have our own dorm room to use since the students are out for the summer. I'm excited to get to know the athletes and coaches from Cornell as well as spend time with some of my best friends from the Penn men and women's teams. Though we are all exhausted, everyone seems so excited to be here!

June 16th - 7:24 PM
Today we went to Penrhyn Castle, which is actually a fairly "new" castle compared to others in Europe. It was built in the 1830s or so by a Lord who had invested in sugar plantations in Jamaica as a local quarry operation. Regardless of how "new" it was, the castle is still impressive. Its gardens and walkways are stunning.

We are getting to know the town of Bangor pretty well and navigating the public transportation system (the buses) just like the locals! The town is pretty small and quiet throughout the day, but we have found a few pubs and clubs that we have grown to fancy such as Yates (great for watching the World Cup games) and Octagon (great for dancing)!

June 17th - 5:45 PM
Today we went with Dr. Roberts on the most gorgeous train ride along the Welsh countryside. About 5K before we reached our destination of Canaerfon,some male and female runners (as well as two coaches), ran alongside the train in a "race against the train!" Most of the runners successfully beat out the train and were rewarded with ice cream courtesy of Dr. Roberts. Unfortunately, however, when the train and the runners arrived in the town at 5 p.m., the castle had just closed! Some of us decided we would return this weekend to see the Canaerfon.

June 19th - 9:30 P.M.
Yesterday, we had our intra-Ivy meet because the Bangor track club was away on holiday and couldn't compete. There were three mixed Penn/Cornell teams: Team Mustache, Team Ninja, and Team Shirtless Bandits. Ultimately, Team Ninja won the meet, but everyone had a great time!

After the meet, most of us went to Yates to watch the U.S. tie Slovenia 2-2 (it should have been a 3-2 win if the referee hadn't taken away one of our goals!). It's been awesome to watch the World Cup in England because so many of them care about the sport. The U.S. is pretty indifferent about soccer, so I hope we do well. That way, in the future, I can go to U.S. bars to watch American men and women play soccer matches in the States with just as much fan support.

This morning, we went to get scones at the cutest shop on the pier of Bangor. These were hands down the best scones I have ever had in my life - I got a cherry one, but there was also raisin and plain. After the scones, a few of us went to Canaerfon to see the castle and town. Supposedly, there was a festival going on today, but when we arrived, there was only a few little kiddie rides near the outdoor market. Regardless, it was really nice to walk around the market and brightly colored buildings in this quaint Welsh town.

Tomorrow we are headed to Birmingham University - I'm really excited to meet more young people from the country and to be in a British university city!

June 21st - 11:00 P.M.
Yesterday we arrived at B'ham and moved in with our hosts from the team. Four of us are staying with six girls and they could not be more pleasant. For dinner last night, they made us "bangers and mash" (sausage and potatoes) with baked beans and carrots on the side. We went bowling with the Penn/Cornell group and the other hosts from Birmingham. Everyone is excited for the meet tomorrow, but we are quickly becoming good friends with our competition!

Today, most of us went to the Cadbury factory after practice. I went on the tour with four others which included a history of this industrial town, a kiddie-ride through "Beanville", and of course, free chocolate tasting! In the afternoon we came back for a lovely banquet presented by the Birmingham athletics department and the meet organizers. Many of us visited a local pub afterwards called "Gunnies" to watch the World Cup game.

June 24th - 10:45 A.M.
I'm on the bus toward Cambridge and I miss Birmingham already! The visit could not have been better, and I've had the most incredible past few days.

At the meet both the CP (Cornell and Penn) men and women were victorious, and some people even set PR's for themselves! For instance, for the Penn ladies, Leah Brown ran her best in the 100 and Jamie Massarelli ran a 2:08 for the 800! It was amazing to watch, and I even got to learn how to throw the javelin.

In addition to the Birmingham, Penn, and Cornell teams, there were guest runners from Limerick, Ireland. Alumni from other areas of the UK also particpated in the meet as prestigious guests, adding to the depth of the international track meet.

In the end, both the men and women defeated their British competition at Birmingham University on Wednesday evening. On the women's side, the American ladies beat out the Birmingham athletes by 28 points (69 for Penn/Cornell and 41 for Birmingham). As for the men, the Penn/Cornell team egded out their British competitors with a score of 75 to 63. The combined scores of the male and female athletes made Penn/Cornell the meet champions with a score of 144-104.

After the meet, we all ate and laughed together at the pig roast held right beside the track. Both the American and British teams were able to enjoy each others company during this celebratory farewell dinner. Of course, the Penn/Cornell, Birmingham and even the guest Irish athletes went out together after the meet was over.

Before the meet, many of us went shopping downtown. The diversity at the outdoor market was unbelievable and it made me fall in love with Birmingham. There were so many types of people, languages, and cultures represented in such a small space.

I didn't really want to leave Birmingham, mostly because the people (students and staff) have been so welcoming, down-to-earth, and fun to be around.

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.