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July / August 2010
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On the Right Track
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Thursday, 08 July 2010

Big Red runners and jumpers have found the formula for success

During his first year as Cornell's head track and field coach in the early Nineties, Lou Duesing was talking with a recruiter from a major consumer products company. Duesing asked the recruiter how many schools he visited each year and was surprised when he said, "Just Cornell."

"I asked him why, and he told me, 'You have a lot of bright people who aren't afraid to get their hands dirty,'" says Duesing, now the head coach of the women's track and field and cross coun- try teams. "I thought, Wow, I want that to be the definition of my teams—people who are bright but aren't afraid to work hard, dig in, and get after it."

coaches
Dynamic duo: Track and field coach Lou Duesing (left) has led the women's team to eight Heps titles in the past nine years. His counterpart on the men's team, Nathan Taylor (right), was recently honored by his fellow coaches as the Northeast Region Men's Coach of the Year. It's the fourth straight year that Taylor has won the award.
 

Thanks to those dirty hands—and feet—the Cornell track and field programs have cleaned up over the first decade of the twenty-first century, dominating the Ivy League and even making a splash on the national scene. The annual Heptagonal Championships, better known as the Heps, serve as the Ivy indoor and outdoor championship meets, and they have had a distinctly Big Red color of late: the men's team won a record eighth straight outdoor title in May, and the women's team won for the eighth time in nine years. (Their record-breaking streak of seven titles ended in 2009, when Princeton won by seven points, also snapping a run of six straight years where Cornell swept the men's and women's events.) Cornell has been nearly as successful at the indoor meet, held in February, with the women winning seven of the last nine and the men five of the last eight.

The seeds of this success were sown in the mid- to late Nineties. Duesing points to the opening of the Bradley Track Center in 1995 and the Kane Sports Complex in 1996 as turning points. "They allowed us to have meets and practices in our own facilities, and it was a clear indication of the commitment being made by Cornell to its track program," he says.

The next big change came in 1999, when Nathan Taylor was brought in as head coach of the men's track and field and cross country teams, allowing Duesing to focus on the women. The two coaches have proven to be adept at recruiting student-athletes with a strong potential for improvement. "Even the ones who have done the best here weren't high school superstars," says Taylor. "They had tremendous potential, but no one considered them to be great recruiting coups. Their success resulted from them taking initiative and responsibility for themselves and for each other. A lot of our success is due to getting kids who will thrive in that kind of environment."

Duane Teixeira
Duane Teixeira
 

Duane Teixeira '10, named the top performer at the 2009 Outdoor Heps after winning the long jump and triple jump, says, "Our coaches have a ton of technical knowledge, and that alone will help you improve a lot. They're also demanding while still being supportive. They expect so much from you because they know you have it in you. And, to me, that's one of the most important things—knowing that someone is there for you but also expects the most out of you. That way, you can get the most out of yourself."

Cornell's athletes have also succeeded on the national level. Rayon Taylor '07 and Muhammad Halim '08 won the NCAA Division I long jump in back-to-back seasons as seniors. For the women, Jeomi Maduka '09 was a seven-time All-American and won gold in the long jump at the North America-Central America-Caribbean Championships in 2009.

Cornell's history of track and field success may be well known to the current athletes, but the coaches say they don't mention past triumphs during the season. "I never talk about streaks because I want each group to form its own identity," says Duesing. "I don't want them to carry the burden of what anyone else accomplished. I want them to focus on who they are and do what they need to do to be as successful as they can be."

— Dennis Read

 

Sports Shorts

Maddie Pearsall
Maddie Pearsall
 

THREE IN A ROW The gymnastics team posted its third straight top-three finish at the USA Gymnastics Collegiate Nationals. Maddie Pearsall '11 posted the top score of 9.800 in the team portion of the parallel bars to help Cornell secure its third-place finish. Emily Santoro '11 won a national championship in the vault, posting an average score of 9.763 in the individual finals. During the meet, assistant coach Melanie Dilli-plane was named the USAG Assistant Coach of the Year for the fourth time.

STILL STRONG It was supposed to be a rebuilding year for men's lacrosse—but in the end it looked more like a minor renovation. Despite losing 16 players from the squad that reached the 2009 national final, Cornell extended its Ivy championship streak to seven and reached the NCAA Final Four for the third time in four seasons. Rob Pannell '12, who tallied 29 goals and 51 assists, was named the Division I Attackman of the Year and became only the fourth sophomore to be named Ivy League Player of the Year. He was joined on the All-Ivy first team by defensive midfielder Pierce Derkac '10. The Big Red surpassed 10 wins for the sixth straight season, breaking the previous school record of five, set in 1974-78.

BIG SHOES Men's basketball has a new leader: Bill Courtney was named the head coach in late April, replacing Steve Donahue, who left for Boston College after leading Cornell to three straight Ivy League titles and a trip to the Sweet Sixteen. Courtney has been a Division I assistant for 15 years, most recently at Virginia Tech. He is familiar with Cornell after facing the Big Red during his playing days at Bucknell, where he set the school's single-season scoring record.

BACK ON THE HILL The women's basketball team will have a new assistant coach next season, but she will look familiar. The new coach is Gretchen Gregg '08, who was a four-year letter winner and a member of the Ivy League championship team as a senior. Gregg spent the past two seasons as a graduate assistant coach at Lehigh, helping the Mountain Hawks win back-to-back Patriot League titles.

Alyson Intihar
Alyson Intihar
 

IVY HONORS With repeat winners of the Pitcher of the Year and Player of the Year awards, it's no surprise that the Big Red won its second straight Ivy League softball title. Shortstop Alyson Intihar '10, who hit .367 and struck out only twice in 188 at bats, won her second Player of the Year honors. Not to be outdone, Elizabeth Dalrymple '11 won her third Pitcher of the Year award after going 21-6 and striking out a school-record 216 batters in 183 innings. They were joined on the All-Ivy first team by third baseman Elise Menaker '10, catcher Shannon Crane '12, and designated player Kristen Towne '13.

ALL-AROUND Men's hockey captain Colin Greening '10 was recognized for his work on and off the ice as the winner of the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award, which is given to the outstanding senior student-athlete in each of nine sports. The award is based on community service, classroom achievements, and character as well as athletic success. A member of the Red Key Honor Society, Greening maintained a 3.95 GPA in applied economics and was one of 25 students named a Cornell Campus Changemaker for his charitable efforts. In April, he signed a contract to play professionally with the Ottawa Senators, who selected him in the seventh round of the 2005 NHL draft.

GREAT RETURNS After finishing his record-setting career at Cornell, Bryan Walters '10 signed a free-agent contract with the NFL's San Diego Chargers. Walters set Ivy League records for career punt-return and kickoff-return yardage, and his 338 all-purpose yards against Fordham was the best 2009 single-game performance in the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly known as Division I-AA).

Spring Teams

Final Records

Baseball 18-20; 9-11 Ivy (3rd, Gehrig Div.)
Men's Lacrosse 12-6; 4-2 Ivy (T-1st)
Women's Lacrosse 5-10; 4-3 Ivy  (T-3rd)
Varsity Hvywt. Rowing 7-3
J.V. Hvywt. Rowing 6-2
Fr. Hvywt. Rowing 8-1
Varsity Ltwt. Rowing 6-3
J.V. Ltwt. Rowing 4-3
Fr. Ltwt. Rowing 9-1
Women's Varsity Rowing 6-6
Women's J.V. Rowing 6-6
Softball 37-15; 17-3 Ivy (1st, South Div.)
Men's Tennis 18-7; 5-2 Ivy (T-2nd)
Women's Tennis 12-10; 2-5 Ivy (6th)
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