Written by Joe Rector, men's cross country and track & field
I knew hardly anyone coming to campus for my freshman year, as I am sure is the case with most incoming students. However, when I walked into the Horner Center to check in for cross-country preseason, I felt immediately at home. The guys on the team took me in in an instant and right away were talking and cracking jokes like I had been there for years. I had only been on campus 10 minutes and I already felt as though I had a group of guys that would have my back through thick and thin, no matter what, and in all actuality, I did. That first week of preseason with the team four years ago was an incredibly memorable and transformative experience that I will never forget and, though I did not realize it at the time, was just the tip of the iceberg of all the good times and indispensable lessons that were to come in my years here. The instant sense of welcoming and belonging I felt really set the tone for my time here and has carried throughout my Hanover experience since, both in running and the classroom.
Running has been a large part of my life for 10 years at this point, and these past four years have been no exception. I have learned more than I ever thought I would about running, life, and myself through being on the cross-country and track teams here at Hanover. I have learned that in running and in life, there is no faking anything; nothing is given and everything is earned. You have to handle some difficult, exhausting, painful barriers to achieve the success you want. I have also learned that throughout all the barriers you may encounter, your friends will always be there to help you through. I am definitely biased, but I believe it is hard to find a tighter knit team than you will with runners. There are things that come out on 15-mile Sunday morning long runs that you will never hear anywhere else. The deep connection that forms during long weeks of long miles is indescribable, and I have made some of the best friends I have ever had through my running experience here. Being Division III student athletes only adds to the strength of that bond. Since athletic scholarships are prohibited at this level, every participant is there because they want to be. No one needs to perform to a certain standard to be able to keep their scholarship. Thus, every run, every lift, every drop of sweat anyone puts in is because they want to improve themselves and the team. The camaraderie that emerges from everyone knowing that they are working to make each other better is a feeling that is hard to match, and is not something that you can find anywhere. Luckily, Hanover is somewhere you can.
As student-athletes, though, our primary focus is academia, and my experience as a biology/geology double major has been nothing short of transformational. Having had classes across a wide variety of subjects has truly opened my eyes to the complexity and intricacy of each topic or issue. I have taken classes ranging from philosophy to business to biology and geology, of course. Throughout all of them however, though the subject of each class may have varied, the common theme of interconnectedness through a cosmopolitan ecosystem, per se, persisted. Everything has its own niche but still interacts with all the other components within the system. The professors at Hanover have always done an excellent job of emphasizing always keeping the bigger picture in mind rather than solely focusing on the areas in which you specialize. From Dr. Rubino's and Dr. Gall's biology courses to Dr. Battles' "Great Works" courses, the broader view of the bigger picture has always been prominent. This emphasis changed how I think and how I go about tackling problems and, I believe, prepares me to handle anything the world may throw my way.
As for my future plans, I will be taking a year to work and gain experience before returning to the world of academia to attend graduate school to study aquatic ecology and to ultimately pursue a career in conservation or environmental consultation. I am thankful for everything Hanover has given me, both through running and through my classroom experience. My four years here have been some of the best times of my life, and I will not soon forget the lessons I have learned here.