2008 has been shaping up to be a special year for Cornell athletics, and the men’s track team is no exception to the trend. Coming off a stellar indoor season in which the team set an all-time points record for an Ivy League school at one meet, the team now looks forward to the outdoor season, which kicked off for some members of the squad in California at the Cal State Northridge Relays on March 15. For veteran Saidu Ezike, who has a better understanding than most about the strides (pun intended) this team has taken over the past few years, the team’s recent success has been little more than a continuation of long-term progress.
“This season is gonna be really good,” Ezike said. “We should have a few more people going to Nationals. We definitely have a really really good squad. This is arguably the best team Cornell has ever had.”
That’s three “really”s, if you were counting.
If any athlete embodies really, really, really good, it is Ezike. One of only two Nationals qualifiers on the team (the other being long and triple jumper Muhammad Halim), and holder of five school records during his tenure at East Hill, Ezike’s short-term goal is to go All-American in the 110-meter hurdles, which would place him among the top-10 collegiate hurdlers in the nation. His long-term goal involves the year 2012.
“I haven’t done too much until about a month ago, but there’s a really good chance that I can make the Liberian National Team in 2012. From that point there’s an outside shot that I can make it to Beijing [for the 2012 Summer Olympics]”, Ezike said.
The Olympic standard for the 110 hurdles is 13.55, and Ezike is hoping that this will be the season he cracks that mark. Doing so would also most likely catapult him to All-American status. While Beijing is still some time away, Ezike still has plenty to focus on in the near-term, with meets every week from this point on in cities as remote as Knoxville, Tenn. and Tallahassee, Fla. The Red’s sole home meet — the Cornell Outdoor Invitational — is on May 3, as is Slope Day.
Speaking of Knoxville and Tallahassee, when Ezike was asked how his talent compares to those of his event peers at Tennessee and Florida State, two schools with reputations for building some of the strongest track and field schools in the country, he said, “The guy from Florida State won Nationals in the hurdles…but I think I can compete with anybody. Beating them is a whole other thing. I do have a shot, but it’s definitely gonna be tough.”
While Ezike obviously has confidence in his individual abilities, he is also quick to credit other members of the team for strong individual performances this past season, especially fellow hurdler Aaron Merrill, another candidate for All-American. And as for the team in general?
“When I was getting recruited, a lot of people didn’t think that Cornell was a good track school, because it was in the Ivy League,” Ezike said. “We’ve been making forward progress, and I would say that right now we’re definitely a top-20 team.”