The competition between Hopkins and Hamden Hall affects many aspects of campus life. Most student responses in an all-school survey reported that they heard of the rivalry from older students on a sports team or from watching games between the two schools. Neil Mehta ’26 first encountered the opposition while on the water polo team. He explains that Hopkins “beat Hamden Hall at Homecoming in triple overtime, where we significantly reduced their chances of going to New England’s.” However, other students first caught wind of a competitive attitude through everyday moments on campus. William Jang ’27 says, “When Dr. Glendinning was introduced in an assembly in 2022, someone in the crowd asked him what his opinion was on Hamden Hall. Dr. Glendinning gave a thumbs-down to the crowd, and people cheered.” Similarly, conversations among students have also sparked knowledge of the ongoing competition. Girls soccer player Ellie Welby ‘24 first “heard about it during freshman year, when discussing how multiple students also applied to Hamden Hall.”
The friendly feud did not just begin within the past couple years; faculty and alumni also recall discourse about the Hamden school. Director of Athletics Rocco DeMaio thinks back to his time as a student and considers what initially sparked the rivalry: “The Hop/HH rivalry existed when I was a player back in the mid-80s. High school basketball games back then were big, fun, social events in the public schools and our schools seemed to mirror that trend.” DeMaio continues, “I believe the rivalry was just a natural match based on the proximity of the two schools in adjacent towns. Many students had friends from youth sports or activities within the Hamden/New Haven area and happened to choose different high schools.”
Dean of Students Lars Jorgensen reflects fondly on his athletic career as a Hopkins student, where he participated in soccer, swimming and diving, and lacrosse. His favorite memory of a Hamden Hall game displays both the major changes Hopkins has undergone and what has stayed the same: “Our gym was where the squash center is now (the existing AC hadn’t been built yet). Hopkins always had a full house and several students formed a ‘band,’ but it was really just students making noise with whatever they could find! The curved ceiling in that space had horrible acoustics and the volume was loud! The crowd was totally into the game and I remember feeling great school spirit.”
Throughout years of competition, certain moments of bad blood have surfaced. DeMaio explains one incident that left a mark on an otherwise healthy and friendly competition: “Some green HH spray painting happened on our turf field a week prior to one of our rivalry football games many years ago. I don’t think we ever solved how or why it happened.” In addition, Luke O’Connell ’23 remembers some mean-spirited play last year when “one of their baseball players took a cheap shot at our first baseman while running the bases and our first baseman’s back was turned.” Eli Ratner ’24 adds that bitterness between the two schools was noticeable at a “basketball game last year where the aggressive attitudes of both teams was heightened from the crowd.”
To some Hopkins students, the competition between the two schools has its downsides. Welby mentions how her team “sometimes dread the upcoming games” as the higher stakes make the game more stressful and “more aggressive than they should be.” Laila Samuel ’23 describes the rivalry as “toxic” for its one-sidedness: “I know that at Hamden Hall, they don’t think of Hopkins the same way we think of them.” Samuel explains that “Hopkins students can become pretty aggressive,” which only “makes us look bad since we’re the only ones who are really invested.” These fleeting moments of poor sportsmanship have proved to be rare occasions, however, in otherwise fair and fun competitions.
Other community members think that the benefits of competition outweigh the downsides. Jorgensen contests that the competition can remain healthy “as long as folks on both sides spend their time cheering on and supporting their classmates and athletes, and not spend their energy insulting others.” Gemma Iaccarino ’26 says that the contention not only “makes the environment more hyped up and exciting,” but it also “puts pressure on, which makes me want to work harder to win.” Isaac Kim ’27 shares a similar perspective: “I like that we have a rival. It actually makes me compete better and give it 110% of my effort because these games feel more significant.”
Though the Hamden Hall versus Hopkins rivalry and the competitive spirit it evokes has endured for many years, Hopkins students predict that more athletic battles will follow into the future. Mehta believes that “the close proximity between the two campuses,” and the similarities between the “structures of the two schools, and the amount of respect” each receives naturally feeds into the competition and keeps it alive. Iaccarino also believes the rivalry will stand the test of time since it has become more of “a tradition and a source of motivation for people.”
Regardless of where people stand regarding the rivalry, it will continue to be an active part in enhancing Hopkins culture and elevating school spirit. As Ananya Biederer ’28 says, “This challenge to be better than the other helps us grow in many ways, and it’s one that will continue.”