The cross country season is long over, and its been plenty of weeks since I’ve run further than three miles at a time. To celebrate the end of our season, and the last season for all of our seniors, we held a banquet at Tom Mannion’s house on Monday.
Tom set up a tent in his backyard filled with tables and chairs, and cooked a serious feast. We had three types of salmon (lox, poached salmon, and sashimi), Korean BBQ beef, persimmon salad, massaged kale salad with mango, sweet potato and plantain tacos, and rotini with marinara. We had sparkling apple juice as well as hot apple cider, and chocolate mousse and chocolate lava cake for dessert.
Our coach gave a few speeches about each senior and each captain, and then the seniors and captains were given chances to speak as well. Most of the seniors talked about how running cross country and being part of the team had made time at Caltech easier and more fun. This was true for me especially. I don’t know what it was about running on the cross country team that has always made my fall terms better than winter and spring (true, every year). Maybe the exercise helps me sleep better, maybe the rigid scheduling of practice makes me make better use of my time for the rest of the day, or maybe having an hour a day to run and talk about my stressors and triumphs with my friends keeps me more sane. In any case, my GPA is always highest when I’m in-season (and this has been found to be true for all athletes at Caltech, and it has also been found that student athletes at Caltech have higher GPAs on average than non-athletes). Part of our speeches was also given over to convincing the freshmen, who made up about 50% of our team this year, to continue running on the team in the future. We lose a lot of students every year, either because they want to do other things with their time or they feel that XC cuts too much into their schoolwork (sports at Caltech are huge time commitments, it’s true). But I obviously think it was worthwhile, and we tried to convince them that it’ll be true for them, as well.
I’m extremely grateful that I got the chance to be a varsity athlete in college. I likely wouldn’t have gotten this chance at any other school, especially because the other schools I was considering were all in NCAA Division I, and I am not a particularly fast runner. Not only did I get the opportunity to benefit from the athletic department in the ways I described above, but I also had the chance to be treated like a varsity athlete, with all of the coaching and training that comes with that, and I drastically improved my race times from what they were in high school, which is a personal accomplishment I’ll always have.
That’s all to say, maybe you shouldn't apply to Caltech specifically for the athletic department, but If you are considering playing a sport at Caltech, I highly encourage it. Being on the cross country and track teams was an experience I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else, and was definitely one of the highlights of my college experience.