Thursday, December 13, 2012

Long Weight

TigerBlog has been very fortunate in his life to have had the opportunity to travel.

He's seen much of the country, largely on Princeton's dime, largely because the men's basketball team happened to be playing someplace unique. As he has said many times, it has afforded him the chance to go to places throughout the United States that he otherwise never in a million years would have.

He's also been to Europe a few times, most recently with the men's lacrosse team in 2008. This past summer, he went to Costa Rica, also with men's lacrosse.

He's been to Hawaii (men's basketball) and the Caribbean (egads, Princeton didn't pay), and he'd probably go back to the Caribbean before Hawaii, simply because it's so much closer. And has places that are fairly close to paradise.

He's been to North America, South America and Europe. He's been to Istanbul, a city that spans Europe and Asia, though never on the Asian side. He's been to Israel, which is either in Asia or Africa, he thinks, though it does compete for a World Cup spot in the European group.

He's been to Russia, a long time ago anyway, when the country was the USSR and the city he was in was called Leningrad. He's been to 16 European countries - none of which are England, France or Italy (unless you count short says in the airports in Paris and Rome on the way to other destinations).

As an aside, if you were expecting to hear TB's thoughts on the 121212 concert for Sandy relief, he didn't get a chance to see it. Were he more cynical, he'd point out that the people who put on the concert could probably (actually definitely) donated the amount of money they raised directly to the relief fund without the concert and without telling anyone and therefore without any of the acclaim.

Good thing he's not more cynical.

Anyway, if you're looking for places that TB has always wanted to go to but never has, then the top of that list is probably Australia and New Zealand.

TB, for fun, checked out the web to see about flying to New Zealand. The first flight he saw went from Newark to Los Angeles to Melbourne to Aukland, took 35 hours from start to finish and cost more than $3,000.

Then he found another flight that went from JFK to San Francisco to Aukland and shaved 14 hours off the total flying time. It seems worth the additional $200 for this itinerary.

TB admits that flying for that long is daunting, and he's not sure he could do it. The longest flight he's done is Helsinki to JFK, which was nine hours. Or maybe Athens to New York, which might have been a little more.

This past September, TB was sitting in his office when a young woman ducked her head in and asked in an accent that TB couldn't exactly place if the women's track and field coaches were around.

It turns out that the woman was Julia Ratcliffe, and she was right off the plane from her native New Zealand, ready for her freshman year at Princeton.

TB had no idea about her other than that she was from New Zealand.

He learned quickly from an excited women's track and field coach, Peter Farrell, that she was the real deal, a weight thrower who had unlimited potential, and she was coming to Princeton after a fourth-place finish in the hammer throw at the World Junior Championships in Barcelona last summer.

Since then, Ratcliffe and TB are on a wave-as-she-walks-past-his-office-on-the-way-to-the-track-office basis. Every time TB has seen her walk by on the balcony of Jadwin, he's wondered what life at Princeton has been like for the New Zealander, someone so far from home, thought she always seems to be smiling, which is a good sign.

Ratcliffe had her first competition for Princeton this past weekend.

And how did she do?

Well, all she did was break the Ivy League record - and Princeton record, obviously - in the weight throw. Actually, she broke the old record on three different throws.

Her performance earned her HepsTrack Athlete of the Week honors, as well as Athlete of the Week honors.

The meet last weekend was Princeton's only competition until after the New Year. There will be three home events this winter, and then indoor Heps will be at Harvard in February. 

If you're looking way ahead, then circle the weekend of May 4/5, when outdoor Heps will be at Princeton's Weaver Track and Field Stadium.

Ratcliffe, TB assumes, will play a leading role in her event.

He also assumes she will be back and forth to New Zealand, which seems to be a country of great natural beauty, one that TB would like to go to some day.

And so this concludes today's entry. Well, except to point out that that's four entries this week - including a guest piece by Howard Levy - without a single "Homeland" mention.

Spoiler alert - there will be plenty of "Homeland" tomorrow.

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