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Shirvell Running On Full For Yale Track

Former Fitch Standout Competes Abroad After Superb Freshman Year

Nobody would blame James Shirvell if he kicked back during his summer break as a college student-athlete to hang out at Misquamicut, Groton Long Point or the Cape for a few weeks.

But the former Fitch High track and field standout hasn't stopped running literally since taking final exams in May.

After shining during indoor and outdoor track at Yale University, a season highlighted by recording the fastest 1,000-meter run time nationally for a freshman indoors, Shirvell honed his running and social skills during June abroad in Great Britain, Wales and Ireland.

Shirvell was a member of the Harvard-Yale collaborative track team that competes biannually against a co-op team from Oxford-Cambridge University in a series that began in 1899.

This June, Cambridge was the home team, giving Yalies and Crimson students who qualified in the Yale-Harvard dual meet a chance to compete abroad. The Yale-Harvard team competed on June 19 in Limerick, Ireland against an Irish track club, on June 22 in Cardiff, England against the Wales U23 club, and on June 28 against Oxford/Cambridge. The Yanks won the biannual battle to take a 29-12 edge in the series.

"It's one of the best opportunities I've ever had," Shirvell said. "To meet people from different parts of the world and to compete with and socialize with Harvard student-athletes, the trip was everything I thought it would be and more."

The thought of Yale teaming up with Harvard on one team is tantamount to an all-star selection of Yankees and Red Sox setting aside their bitter rivalry to merge as compatriots in one squad.

Waterford native Nathan Molina, a Yale senior sprinter, expressed his initial mixed feelings about the coalition in a blog to Yale's athletic website.

"At first, we were hesitant to embrace our rivals, as our meeting with the coaches prior to the first event resembled the segregated Congress at a State of the Union speech," Molina wrote. "But after some great results by Yale and Harvard competitors on the heels of several inspiring performances by the Irish athletes, that camaraderie and trust that teammates share in all sports began to emerge."

Shirvell quickly discovered that Harvard's track stars were mirror images of Yale's competitors - intelligent young people who were driven to excel athletically.

"It was a little weird hanging out with Harvard people, who are supposed to be our respectful competitors," he said. "It didn't take long to realize how much similarities we have."

He also sensed the athletes from the United Kingdom possessed the same desire, if not the backing. Shirvell's highlight on the track was a third place finish in the Oxford/Cambridge mile at 4:19. Molina, the 2007 Eastern Connecticut Conference 100-meter champ at WHS, finished fourth in the Cambridge 200 meters at 22.4.

"I was somewhat surprised that their track squads did not have the same emphasis in terms of facilities and coaching that we have in American colleges," Shirvell said. "Most of the track teams there are clubs, not college teams."

Shirvell exploited his college training to trim several seconds off his time from his All-State exploits as a Fitch senior. His personal record of 1:51.67 in the 800 was five seconds better than his Fitch PR. His top time of 2:23.8 in the 1000, the nation's top freshman time, was nine seconds better than his Fitch best. His best mile time was 4:14.

Shirvell made All-Ivy League in the 1000 and in the Distance Medley Relay, which won the prestigious Penn Relays in April.

"I feel blessed that I have great coaches and that I attend a college that features the top of the line in academics and athletics," Shirvell said. "I couldn't have asked for a more rewarding freshman year."

It was a busy year. And it's not over for the premed and research major. After returning home July 2 and spending Independence Day with his family in Mystic, Shirvell starts an internship at Yale July 5.

"I'm going to be in a lab," Shirvell said, "studying malaria."

No rest for Shirvell, to be sure.

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