This column will highlight a different student-athlete each week, striving to unearth what the hectic life of a Brandeis athlete entails. With this in mind, such a collection of stories will serve as a testament to the hard work, passion and resilience that athletes at Brandeis specifically embody, hopefully working to bridge the gap between student-athletes and the rest of the Brandeisian community.
It’s 7:30 a.m. and hurdler/jumper Tessa Holleran ’21 is on her way to a morning lift session with her teammates. “Everyone’s kind of groggy, but I bounce around, and I’m happy to be there and motivate people,” she told The Brandeis Hoot in an interview.
Even though she is friendly and talkative with her teammates, every lift session is another opportunity for Holleran to build up her strength for her spring season and take what she learns in the weight room onto the track. Track and field, unlike many other varsity sports, is as much an individual sport as it is a team sport.
“Track is unique because you’re on a team, but the biggest competition is yourself,” she said. “[In the weight room], I’m working on my own work ethic, which is preparing me for the challenges that I may face when I’m in season.”
After her session, Holleran goes back to her dorm in Charles River for breakfast and a homework session. One of the biggest things that she’s learned being an athlete is good time-management skills, balancing practice, academics, sports and a social life.
It’s after lunch time, and Holleran is heading up campus to her favorite but most difficult course, Italian. She is always excited to go to this class because Professor Paola Servino (ITAL) always keeps her on her toes, and Holleran enjoys seeing her growth in speaking the language. “Having the ability to somewhat speak an entirely different language is a source of pride for me, and I can see my growth as the days pass as I can hold a conversation with my boyfriend or classmates,” Holleran told The Hoot.
After Italian, Holleran is off to her next class, this time for her major, ANTH 151B (Nature, Culture, Power: Anthropology of the Environment). “I really enjoy the class because you’re able to build off the ideas of other classmates in an open, non-judgmental environment,” she said. “It helps you become more aware of the current state of different places in the world.”
Holleran is an Environmental Studies major with minors in Italian Studies, Classical Studies and Business. She enjoys the variety of classes that she’s able to take because of the difference in all her areas of study.
After her class finishes at 3:20 p.m., Holleran is running back to Gosman for the second time that day for a 3:30 p.m. practice. An important rule for both cross country and track and field athletes is to keep the 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. block open for practice.
After practice, she’s usually back in her dorm to make dinner or in the dining hall for a team dinner. Whenever she gets the chance to go, Holleran really appreciates being able to take a step back from athletics and connect with her team on a more casual level.
She does recognize that at other Division III schools like Brandeis, varsity athletes may have a different reputation on campus. She told The Hoot that when she looks at the Instagram page of the University of Oregon track and field team, one of the top in the country, she says that it’s hard to see them as students outside of their sport. “I look at myself like everyone else,” she told The Hoot. “At Brandeis, there’s always competition for who’s doing something better. And there’s always someone doing something bigger and better.” Holleran recognizes that she is a varsity athlete, however, she doesn’t feel like it’s anything special, besides the fact that varsity athletes get their own weight room in Gosman.
Holleran has learned from being a varsity athlete to always be ambitious. When she’s approaching the blocks for a hurdles race, the only thought running through her head is “f*ck it, let’s just do this and run as fast as you can.”
And she’s brought this into her personal life as well, taking what she learned and making the jump to study abroad. “I just figured if I didn’t do it now, I would miss the opportunity… Similarly, if I don’t put in the work, then I’m not going to see results.”
Another defining characteristic Holleran has on the team is that she serves as their team photographer. At every track meet, teammates and fans can expect to see her running around the track, photographing every event she can for her fellow teammates. “I’m running from event to event, only taking a break to do my own warmups for my event, and I hand my camera off to someone else to take photos.”
Holleran initially started taking photos because it “added a lot more substance to track than just running and being athletic. It’s a passion, and I’ve always loved art, and it’s a way for me to connect with my teammates.”