November 22, 2000

Turkey Day for the Athletes

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Thanksgiving break. The time of year that brings to mind traveling home to see family and friends whom you haven’t seen since the summer, eating a hearty dinner around a table with those nearest and dearest to you, and taking a break from the rigors of life at Cornell.

Yet there are many students here who aren’t able to go home for the long weekend, and a good number of them are members of Big Red athletic teams. Many of the winter athletes have to spend their Thanksgiving break in the Ithaca cold practicing and competing, and missing out on time back at home.

Four Cornell teams have games scheduled over the break, while several others will be at school practicing. The men’s basketball squad will be at Michigan State for a tournament, while the women hoopsters are fortunate enough to at least escape the cold for a competition at Georgia Tech. The men’s hockey team will be skating this weekend in a tournament at Syracuse, while the women icers travel to Dartmouth and Boston College for a pair of games.

So what is it that the winter athletes do to celebrate Thanksgiving Day?

“I usually sit around and bitch and moan because I can’t see my family for the holidays,” junior women’s ice hockey player Erinn Perushek said.

“It’s sad, because Thanksgiving is a very family-oriented holiday, and it’s hard to not be home with your family on a holiday like this,” added teammate and classmate Eva Nahorniak. “It’s hard to be thankful.”

In place of dinner with the family, Perushek plans to make a Thanksgiving ‘feast’ for her teammates so that they can share some of the Thanksgiving experience.

“I usually make dinner for some of the other girls on the team, but it’s on a limited budget since we’re college students,” she noted.

The men’s hockey team members are slightly more fortunate, since there are a couple of players on the roster from nearby towns. Sophomore Sam Paolini hails from Rochester, NY, while senior tri-captain Larry Pierce is a native of Mendon, N.Y.

A lot of their teammates will go to one of their homes and celebrate Thanksgiving with their teammates’ families.

The fact that Canadians make up the majority on the squad creates another interesting Thanksgiving issue.

“We actually celebrate two Thanksgivings on our team — we celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving and they celebrate [American] Thanksgiving,” junior David Francis noted.

Meanwhile, at least one team — the wrestling crew — is fortunate enough to be given a break over the holiday. Having opened the season last weekend and being without action until after classes end, head coach Rob Koll is giving his troops the weekend off.

“I’m being exceptionally generous this year, letting kids go home for a couple days,” he said. “I’m spoiling them rotten.”

A few of the wrestlers will be hanging around the East Hill anyway, so doing what wrestling teams of the past who couldn’t go home have done: going out to a team dinner with the coach at a local restaurant.

“In wrestling, you’ve got to watch your weight,” Koll warned, “So maybe some of them don’t want to be around me when they’re eating.”

Archived article by Alex Fineman