Laurel Wills ’17 Claims the Top (Wet) Prize in the 122nd Wellesley Hooprolling Contest

April 24, 2017
Laurel Wills ’17 Claims the Top (Wet) Prize in the 122nd Wellesley Hooprolling Contest

Hooprolling at Wellesley began as a May Day celebration in 1895 and has endured as one of the College’s longest-running and most cherished traditions. Each spring, seniors line up on Tupelo Lane in their graduation gowns—many in starting positions claimed and held for them by their Wellesley little sisters—and race their wooden hoops down the hill, vying for the honor of being thrown into Lake Waban.

seniors hood their hoops high

Laurel Wills ’17, who won this year’s race on April 22, considers the tradition one not only of the College, but also of the Shakespeare Society, of which she is a member. Following the practice of passing hoops from generation to generation among families and friends, clubs, teams, or societies, Wills’ hoop was passed down to her from within her Shakespeare Society sonnet family, Sonnet 55. She will, in turn, hand it down to the rising senior in Sonnet 55 for next year. She is unsure who inscribed the quote from that particular Bard work onto the hoop—You live in this, and dwell in lover’s eyes—but she knows that the hoop dates back to at least 2001.

It is also Shakespeare Society practice for underclassmen to get an early start on saving spots at the starting line for the club’s seniors, and for the last three years Wills has been the first one to set up camp. “I always loved sleeping out,” said Wills. “It probably helps that I love camping in general.”

the race begins

This year marked her turn to reap the benefit. More than 10 underclass members of the Shakespeare Society began camping out beginning at 8:30 am on Friday in anticipation of Saturday’s race, allowing Wills a prime front starting position from which she surged ahead to claim first prize. “I like to say that hooprolling is a team sport because I couldn’t have won without all of the people who camped out on the starting line,” said Wills.

Following her first-place finish, Wills was hoisted onto the shoulders of friends who led the parade of students to the shores of Lake Waban, where she was honored by being thrown into the water. “The water wasn’t too bad, actually—but that might have just been the adrenaline keeping me warm,” she said. “I love swimming in the lake, and actually this wasn’t the first dip I’ve taken this semester.”

Winner Laurel Wills is transported to Lake Waban

Wills is a cognitive and linguistic sciences and Middle Eastern studies double major from Acton, Mass. In addition to the Shakespeare Society, she is involved in theater through Upstage and the Theatre Studies Department. She has also worked with the Wellesley Centers for Women and was a resident advisor in Claflin Hall. Following graduation, she will be staying in the Boston area to begin a job with Amazon.

Early tradition stipulated that the hooprolling winner would be the first among her peers to be married. Later, that changed to the first to earn a Ph.D. or become CEO. Now, Wellesley maintains that the first-place winner will be the first to achieve success, however she defines it. Laurel Wills appears to be well on her way.

Wills poses with President Paula A. Johnson and friends