August 26, 2008

Brown Track & Field Team Competes Overseas

June 30, 2008

Providence, RI - Sunday June 22nd, the Brown and Dartmouth track teams regretfully returned from an amazing 12-day venture across the seas. The trip began June 10th with some airplane difficulties and an unfortunate early return to Providence when all flights to Philly were cancelled for the night due to weather. However, it turned into a fun evening and a great ice breaker as the Dartmouth team came back to the Brown campus with us and slept over at our places. The next day, we started all over again and returned to Logan to face yet again, more flight delays. They switched us to a different airline, but couldn't fit all 54 of us on one flight, so we had to split up and would meet in Limerick, Ireland.

All of these setbacks were no match for our excitement, and 10 hours later we arrived exhausted in Shannon, Ireland. We were greeted at the airport by our host Michael Hayes, who is a professor at the University of Limerick, an Ivy League graduate, and track aficionado. He handed each of us a packet of information and a program for our competition. Immediately, we felt welcomed. After a bus ride to Limerick, and a three-hour nap, (even longer for some of us), we convened for practice preceded by an Irish dancing lesson. The night after the first meet, we were delighted to attend a formal banquet with a delicious three-course meal and mixed seating arrangements, which allowed us to mingle with the Irish athletes. After the dinner we all enjoyed an inter-team dance complete with deejay! Five days in the beautiful countryside with the track meet (in which we realized not just the University of Limerick was competing but practically all of Ireland), banquet, and lots of bonding time, were followed by a sad goodbye to the University of Limerick and the local friends we made.

The teams then packed up and headed for Dublin. Here, we enjoyed only one brief day and night in a modest youth hostel. We had one day to explore the city and all it had to offer. Some found a great park to run in, and others went to see the castle. Some were tired and took a bus tour while others walked the entire city on foot, and lastly some went to the famous Guinness Beer factory. It was a quick trip, but a fun city to see before heading off to the wonderful UK.

The first night in London, the team stayed outside of the city at the quaint University of Brunel where an early night allowed us to re-energize before heading into central London. We were able to use the track and field facilities as well as run on some local trails. The day before - Linford Christie (a former English superstar sprinter, who later got caught cheating with drugs - was hosting a practice at the track). Furthermore, upon leaving we found out that Brunel was going to be one of the host sights for the 2012 Olympics. It was neat to realize that we got to stay where future Olympians would be staying. We were spoiled at both the University of Limerick and Brunel as both had incredible dorm situations in which everyone had their own room and bathroom!

After practice and lunch in the dining hall (where many would say we had the best meal of the entire trip), we headed into London on a very interesting bus ride (where the driver had no idea where we were going and got really, really lost). Finally we arrived in the middle of London at the University College of London, which is where we resided for the remainder of the trip.

The first day, we packed up bright and early, and headed off to visit the historical campuses of Cambridge and Oxford. Well worth the two-hour drive, we experienced the grounds, gardens, and Roger Bannister's famous track well known to us all. Every athlete on the trip left jealous as ever as these two campuses are extremely impressive. The buildings and the architecture are beautifully old and gothic in style, and the gardens and grounds were kept extremely well manicured and neat. Many of us would definitely consider applying to graduate school there.

On the bus ride back, every single person fell asleep after surviving the total 6 hours of driving. However, immediately upon return, everyone headed off to a local place to watch soccer--a popular event for the remainder of the trip. The final three days we toured the entire city of London, and all of its wonders! Allowed to do as we wish, many of us saw Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Parliament, The British Museum, Harrod's department store, Camden Market, Tower of London, Stonehenge, multiple theatrical productions including Phantom of the Opera, Lion King, Wicked, Chicago and more!!! A large group of us went on the London Eye as well - where one can find a terrific view of the entire city (not so great for those afraid of heights).

The final day was spent at a rainy track meet outside of the city. Although the competition was far from fierce, we enjoyed one last day together as "Brownmouth", all reminiscing about the unbelievable sights we saw, and experiences we had shared. The meet was very low key, which was a relief considering we were all extremely tired from walking so much (only a few utilized the underground "tube" transport system). It was also interesting to see how the track system works in the UK. They compete as clubs and their season goes through the summer as opposed to our system of university competitions during the academic school year.

Sunday morning at 7 am, the teams disappointedly departed University College and headed to the airport. Of course, the trip inevitably had to end with more flight difficulties... delayed flights out of London, proceeded by more delayed flights out of Charlotte ended us back at Logan where we said our farewells to each other.

There is no doubt in my mind that everyone on this trip would say that it was one of their greatest and most memorable collegiate experiences. It was an amazing opportunity, for which we all feel privileged and thankful to have been a part of.

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