The college experience includes more than just one student, one professor or one friend. College, in most cases, is a group activity. And my group includes a cast of characters I spend a lot of time with: my teammates.
Teammates are like family. You can’t pick them, but you have to love them.
Athletics can make these relationships tough, especially in individual sports where one athlete’s success is automatically someone else’s loss.
We only send six women to each varsity race. There are a lot more than six talented women skiing at Dartmouth.
The worst team squabble I’ve seen was in my biostatics class last year. Three of us, who all thought we deserved the sixth spot, were sitting next to each other when our coach announced the team selection over e-mail.
One of us was named. The other two were not. One girl complained loudly about how unfair the selection was, since she thought she deserved it more. We tried to stay mature, but didn’t succeed. When we returned to histograms and correlations, two of us had hurt feelings.
It’s hard to compete against your friends.
But while we bicker occasionally, most of the time we have fun. Those same two girls and I have been on countless bike adventures, cooked experimental dinners, and helped each other with homework and boy problems.
Some of my favorite experiences at college have been with my teammates.
There was that time when Pat O’Brien’s father picked us up after a ski race and there was a dead deer in his truck.
Katie Bono, who’s from the city, didn’t like that. She’d never seen stiff, bloody legs sticking up from truckbeds in Minneapolis, and she didn’t want to put her skis next to dead animals.
Another time, Pete Van Deventer, Pat and I skied through the streets of West Yellowstone after the first snow, and then snuck into a nice hotel to use their pool, water slide, and hot tub.
I’ve spent sunny days on spring break digging sugaring lines out of the snow at Hannah Dreissigacker’s farm. My summers have passed working with Susan Dunklee ever since she suggested I apply for her job when I finished my freshman year.
I’ve visited my teammates houses and met their families. Susan’s mother sewed me a fleece blanket, and Dakota Blackhorse-von Jess’s mother taught me how to shoot a gun. I’ve seen Pete’s sheep and played Lucas Schulz’s family’s piano.
In short, I guess we know each other pretty well.
It’s hard not to, when at races you cramp seven men and women into a hotel room to save money, and you drive out to Michigan in a minibus together to avoid paying for plane tickets.
You also live with them. Both of my housemates, Kristin Dewey and Nils Koons, are on the ski team. Three other skiers live down the stairs.
For years, our building has served as a hub for the ski team. We gather for dinners, birthdays, movies, and fresh-baked cookies and apple pies. Any team member can sleep on our sofa if their bus gets into town at 2 a.m.
I didn’t know Kristin very well before this year because we’re in different classes and we’ve both had our ups and downs on the ski team.
If I’m skiing fast, it seems natural to spend a lot of time with other skiers.
If I am disappointed and frustrated with racing, sometimes I want to get as far from the team – physically and emotionally – as possible.
As a senior, I am realizing that there are a lot of people at Dartmouth I wish I knew better, and a lot of friendships I wish I had started sooner.
But even if my teammates aren’t the first people I want to see, I know that they will be.
We’ll get together early Thursday mornings for our required yoga class, on Fridays for time trials after we’ve stressed out about school all week, or on Sundays at 8 a.m. for a long workout after we’ve stayed up too late dancing.
And I know that, whatever our differences or whatever each of us thinks is our place on the team at that moment, we will laugh, joke, gossip, and, well, love each other as we ski and run across the Upper Valley.