Keep your eye on junior Senter Johnson this year.
After being one of four players selected to the 2001-2002 All-East team, Johnson feels that he and the Red can beat any team in the nation. Though his ambitions may seem lofty, the junior is already off to a convincing start with 37 goals and four wins in the past five games.
Interestingly enough, polo was not Johnson’s primary focus until he arrived at Cornell. He attended Taft and graduated in 2000, playing lacrosse and some football during his prep school days. Despite his interest not taking a firm root until college, Johnson’s introduction to polo actually precedes his time at Taft.
Traveling to England for his summers, Johnson began learning the game of polo at the age of 10. His father was on a team and often allowed his son the opportunity to play. Years of this summer pastime sparked an interest and eventually caused Johnson to pay a visit to varsity polo coach David Eldredge ’81.
The rest of the story seems like a Disney movie. Beginning with last season, Johnson and classmate Jeff Markle both found themselves in the starting rotation for the team. Overcoming youth and inexperience, the two have grown to compliment each other and become two of the strongest players in intercollegiate polo.
Yale, Colorado State and UVA all played in Ithaca during the Bill Field Invitational this past weekend. Despite the fact that any one of these teams may be the one to end Cornell’s quest for another Eastern Regional title, Johnson is as relaxed as ever.
“Senter is as laid back as they come,” said Eldredge.
Originally noting that Johnson’s play was “raw” during freshman year, Eldredge realizes how far the junior has come in the past two years.
“Often, he does things that I haven’t seen in 10 years. He oozes talent, and it’s all from natural abilities.”
Hustle was another word that frequently poured out of Eldredge’s lips, as he continued to speak about Johnson. Contrasting the laid-back attitude, Johnson is no slouch in the ring. He works hard to maintain the team, and despite the praise and honor he has garnered, Johnson remains humble. When asked what he owed his success to, he credited his teammates.
“Overall, all three of us are playing well with each other,” said Johnson. “We’ve got three strong guys on the field who can go out and match up against any other three strong guys on the field.”
Testament to his team player mentality, Johnson finds his most memorable moments are not of individual glories, but of hard-fought team victories. One example he easily cited was that of the team’s 2002 Eastern Regional victory over Valley Forge.
Will the polo team reach the national tournament again? Will it be able to bring home the national title? While these questions may remain unanswered until the spring, one thing is certain — keep your eyes on Senter Johnson. He’s the man to watch.
Archived article by Matt Janiga