A hot Saturday, sweat and grime, three flags, a barbecue, and sixty missing freshmen. You guessed it—Big Gymkhana.
Starting several hours earlier than previous years, the extra time certainly did help. Up bright and early, for some even earlier than they usually get up, the freshmen headed to the field, bleary-eyed and tired, though nervousness penetrated their dazed looks. I remember sitting on the back of my horse with the sun already warming my back, having only been on the field for an hour. It was going to be hot.
Before anyone had any extra time to reflect though, all riders were immediately plunged into the ceremony. Going from most to least points, Green team entered first, followed by Blue, and rounding up was Orange. Representatives proudly carried flags of their team colors and the flags for the flags ceremony. Parents were hushed, cameras were taken out, and the teenagers would’ve been more embarrassed if it wasn’t for the looming task ahead of them. As each of the teams filed in, I couldn’t help wondering how a year had passed so quickly. It seems like it was just yesterday that I was getting on the back of a horse (not the first time for me personally, but that is the exception, not the rule). And suddenly, an amazing amount of parents and horses are standing all around, ready to celebrate one of the greatest accomplishments of a freshman’s year.
And so it begins.
For those of you who remember, when Gymkhana season first starts, everyone is a bumbling mess. No one is at their race when they’re supposed to go and most people are clueless about the rules. Things are very different now. After almost an entire trimester of preparation, the freshmen know the rules of the game and they’re certainly ready to play. Jackets have already been passed out and the top ten wear them proudly, knowing that they have earned their place. The music kicks up and look at those horses go!
Races pass in a blur. By the time you and your horse have crossed the finish line, someone’s calling your name for the next one and just when you think you can relax, the teams switch around. It’s an eventful day and suddenly, the nervousness vanishes. Not because you think you’re going to win or that you’re set, no. It’s gone because there is too much to focus on and too little time to waste.
The day concludes with the Silver Dollar pickup. As Mr. Okin says, there are three things necessary to pick up the dollar. “Skill, guts…and luck.” Three of the many eager attempters managed to find the perfect combination: Nick Johnson ‘16, Colly Smith ‘16, and Peter Callan ‘16. As the contestants raised their fists in the air, sand trailing behind them and loping onwards, you could see a look of pure exhilaration in their faces and a beautiful ending to a long, stressful, but amazing day.
Finally, at the end of a long, hot day, the awards are presented. The team rankings have not changed, with Green Team in first, Blue Team in second, and Orange Team wrapping up the season with third. Individual awards are also announced. Daniel Kruth ‘13, Lachlan Nutting ‘14, and Alex Morris ‘14 proudly take their place on the stage as the top three overall riders of the year. The top three freshmen–an achievement just as great or perhaps even greater than top three overall–are taken by Serena Warren ‘16, Alessandro Lorenzoni ‘16, and Nick Johnson ‘16.
All too soon, it has ended. A year that was both everlastingly long and unbearably short at the same time and a year that will be remembered, but never quite relived. Years from now, people will recall fondly the memories on horseback and laugh at the naivety of their freshman year and horses and Big Gymkhana are certain to be part of it. Why this experience is so magically unique is difficult to define, but Serena Warren, top freshman of the year, puts it this way. “Gymkhana really brought our class together. The competitive aspects gave our classmates motivation work hard, although it was quite frustrating at times. The best part of Big Gymkhana,” she adds, “was how much fun all of the teams had. I felt so much pride entering on Big Gymkhana riding with all of Orange Team!”
A conclusion then, to the first chapter of high school. But then again, as they say, every ending is the start of a new beginning. May the next year be the best year yet.
JEAN LI ’15