Steph Hartford: OES’s Hurling MVP

by Charlie Norgaard

If you’ve ever wondered why Steph Harford consistently dominates the court in the annual Senior-Faculty basketball game, it’s because she is easily one of OES’s most impressive faculty athletes.  

Although she comes across as an extremely calm and friendly person, Steph’s obsession with the sport of hurling brings out an unexpected feistiness in her jaw-dropping athletic ability.

I was fortunate enough to learn about this MVP’s obscure athletic abilities recently and was curious to find out how she got involved in such a male-dominated sport when she’s not in her marketing department role at OES.

First and foremost, Steph emphasized that hurling should not be confused with the sports of curling or caber tossing, as hurling is approximately 1,000 times more violent and exciting than those other two sports. Hurling first originated in Ireland around 3,000 years ago and was used by Celtic kings to prepare their warriors for battle. As she describes it, “the sport is a blend between lacrosse and field hockey, with a touch of rugby thrown in”. Steph first started playing on a Camogie team, which is the non-contact version of hurling, however being the ruthless athletic beast that she is, Steph thirsted for something more riveting, and joined the Men’s hurling team.

Along with a total of around 10 other Portlanders, Steph plays with The Willamette Hurling Club, where she is in a division that is made up of several other teams from Seattle, Portland, Corvallis, and Missoula. I assumed that Steph would be the odd one out on her team, being a perfectly normal sized woman, but it turns out that the typical hurling player isn’t a 6’4, 225 pound Celtic barbarian who savagely beats others with their wooden sticks as I previously assumed. “American hurling players come from a wide variety of backgrounds; some come directly from Ireland with a burning passion for the sport, while others are just looking for a new hobby,” says Steph.

Steph now coaches her own hurling team, which she managed to revive a couple years ago. She continues to build a small, yet growing community of Portland hurlers. Though it may only appeal to the toughest and most fierce of athletes, Steph highly encourages anyone to try out the sport. Having played and coached hurling for over six years, she can say with confidence that hurling requires plenty of patience, persistence, and toughness, but once you’ve mastered the basics, the sport is unbelievably rewarding.

If you would like to see Steph and her team compete in one of their upcoming tournaments, or maybe just have a passing interest in watching people hit each other with sticks, then head on over to Westmoreland Park on July 22nd. Or, if you would like to potentially join a hurling team within Portland, Steph is always looking for new recruits and would love to talk with you.

Here is a brief video on the rules of hurling, credits to Steph:

Thanks for reading.