August 30, 2001

Volleyball's Jackson Wins Medal at Empire Games

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Every year thousands of New York State’s finest athletes gather together to participate in New York’s own version of the Olympics, the Empire State Games. This year the Games were held at sites in and around Utica, N.Y., between July 25 and July 29, and featured a number of Cornell’s finest athletes and coaches.

Two of these Cornellians were the volleyball team’s head coach, Christie Jackson, and assistant coach, Steve Loeswick. Jackson had planned on bringing her top setter, Rachel Rice, to the Games but Rice was deemed ineligible because she was born out of state. Then, to add more to the confusion, her back-up blew out her knee just before the competition was set to begin and was unable to play.

Jackson, at the urging of her players and Loeswick, decided to jump off the pine and step on to the hardwood, playing setter for her squad. Jackson, by no means a stranger to the game, having played setter at the University of Idaho, was surprised when she found herself back on the court.

“They talked me in to it,” Jackson remarked.

However, Empire State Games rules prevent anyone to coach and play at the same time, so assistant Loeswick took the reigns of the team and became head coach of Central New York’s volleyball team.

“Most of the players are out of college, so there wasn’t much teaching to be done. I mostly organized substitutions and dealt with strategy,” Loeswick said.

The team went on to win the silver medal, falling to the New York City team in the finals, 3-2.

For the games, New York State is divided into six regions, and thousands of athletes from all across the state try out for a wide variety of sports. Competition is split into two divisions, Scholastic, which is devoted to high school participants, and Open, which consists of collegiate and ex-collegiate athletes.

“It’s a great opportunity for former players to come together and compete against each other. It’s really a great time,” Loeswick said.

Jackson was not the only Cornell coach invited to the Games.

Melanie Dilliplane, assistant coach of the Cornell gymnastics team, also won silver in the open featherweight weight lifting competition. Dilliplane, who has competed previously in the Games in both weightlifting and gymnastics, lifted 246.91 pounds. Her husband Tom Dilliplane, a Cornell strength and conditioning coach, was her coach for the games.

Other Cornellians in the Games were recent track stars Pete Ippel ’01, Jamie Reed ’01, J.P. Pollak ’00 and Nathan Jauvtis ’99. Jauvtis and Reed both won gold in the men’s and women’s pole vault, respectively, while Pollak narrowly missed earning medals in both the long and triple jump events.

Archived article by Josh Vlasto