Ari Rodriguez '16 Wins the 121st Annual Hoop Rolling Contest
Graduation—a milestone life event—is traditionally commemorated with long gowns and colorful stoles, speeches by inspirational leaders, the gathering of family and friends, and tossing one's graduation cap up into the air when the ceremony ends. At Wellesley, perhaps no graduation tradition is more unique, beloved, and exciting than the annual Hooprolling contest.
This year's contest took place this past Sunday. Ari Rodriguez '16 was first to cross the finish line. After her victory, as tradition goes, Rodriguez's classmates hoisted her to the edge of nearby Lake Waban, and proceeded to toss her in for a celebratory splash in the lake.
The winner, once said to be the first to marry, later said to be the first to earn a PhD or become a CEO, is now said to be the first in her class who will achieve happiness and success, however she defines it. Ari hopes her education will prepare her to work to advance girls' education and one day attend graduate school. "Ideally, I'd like to work to help involve girls in STEM fields, before applying to a graduate program in women's/gender/feminist studies," she said.
Rodriguez, a Women's and Gender Studies major from Santa Barbara, California, is a member of the rugby club. "I’ve been playing since my first semester at Wellesley and it’s been my family for the past four years. My hoop was decorated with names of my own rugby family from my time here: Natalie Griffin '14, Kate Corcoran '15, myself, and Mary Ollen '18," she described in an email interview following the race.
Seniors often give their hoops to their Littles or to younger classmates, teammates, coworkers, and friends for future contests. Some hoops, carrying the signatures of a long lineage of previous hooprollers, are passed on for many years to the newest senior class who are left to keep the tradition rolling.
Long ago, the ancient Greeks rolled hoops as an athletic exercise. The sport later evolved to become a children's game, traditionally played on May Day, in the 18th and 19th centuries. But before the game could fade out in popular culture like the black-and-white photos that depict its history, the Wellesley Class of 1895 made hoop rolling a celebration unique to the College's culture. The Annual Hoop Rolling Contest has been a symbol of graduation at Wellesley ever since.
According to tradition, the Little Sisters of Wellesley seniors line up on Tupelo Lane early the morning before the race, some even camping out the night before, to save a good spot at the starting line for their Bigs. The next morning, seniors line up side-by-side in a spirited crowd beneath the blossoming trees that line Tupelo Lane. Donning their graduation gowns, they prepare themselves for the friendly competition. At the signal, cheered on by underclassmen supporters, students sprint alongside their rolling wooden hoops to the finish line.
Soon Rodriguez and her classmates will prepare for their final day as Wellesley students before they enter the world as alumnae. On May 27th, 2016, the senior class will gather with faculty, family, and friends for the College's 138th Commencement Ceremony.
Congratulations Ari, and best of luck in pursuing your future goals!
-Helena McMonagle '16 contributed to this story.