Written Senior Perspective - Lily Koffman, Women's Nordic Skiing

Photo by Gil Talbot
Photo by Gil Talbot

The 2019 Senior Perspectives is the 14th in a series of annual collections. Senior captains and representatives of teams at Harvard have been invited to contribute viewpoints based on personal experience from both their senior seasons and full varsity careers at Harvard.

Lily Koffman
Hometown: Orono, Maine
Concentration: Statistics
House Affiliation: Cabot

I started Nordic ski racing in eighth grade because I was terrible at basketball and needed something else to do during the winter. I had no idea that skiing would become arguably the biggest part of my life for the next ten years.

At first, I wasn’t particularly good at skiing, but I loved the feeling of gliding across the snow and the burning of cold air in my throat after race or particularly hard set of intervals. I improved throughout high school, despite lacking consistent access to snow or a knowledgeable coach. During my senior year, despite spending my entire childhood espousing my hatred of cities, I fell in love with the team at Harvard and decided I wanted to continue my skiing career here. I wasn’t fast enough to be recruited, but Coach City gave me a training plan and encouraged me to try out in the fall. I spent the summer training harder than I ever had, and managed to make the team. Freshman fall, I showed up to every practice fifteen minutes early, hoping to make up for the fact that I would be dropped off of the back of the pack in nearly every workout. Yet regardless of my individual ability, the team embraced me and the rest of the freshmen as family.

After countless technique adjustments, early morning bounding sessions, long rollerskis, and plenty of time in Palmer Dixon, I went from desperately hanging on to the back of the group to a captain and NCAA-scorer in several races this year. My senior season, our team collectively had the best results we’ve had in a decade. However, as I look back on my time as a member of the ski team at Harvard, I think more than anything I will remember the incredible bonds and memories I formed with my teammates. I will remember the hundreds of van rides filled with bizarre music like “Christmas trap” and Rachmaninov, sneaking past Bonnie in Lev in order to be able to eat together, the ridiculous debates in the wifi-free Craftsbury dining hall, the pre-race glitter parties, the rainy and cold November rollerskis, the sizzling Summit Ave repeats in September, the races in all kinds of wild weather, from five below to 50 and raining, the endless laps on the snowmaking loop at Weston, the late-night waxing sessions, the movie marathons between training sessions at January Camp, and the ultra-competitive annual Thanksgiving football game.

My teammates have been integral to my success and happiness at Harvard. They supported me through health and confidence struggles freshman year and the whirlwind of graduate school applications and thesis work senior year. From the moment I stepped into the van each day to drive to practice and heard the team’s familiar banter, I felt that I could let my guard down and be my true, authentic self. As four years of these therapeutic van rides comes to an end, I feel incredibly thankful to have been a part of Harvard skiing, and know that my Harvard skiing family will be my family for life.