“John Reif was class of ’86. He was a member of the cross country team,” said women’s head coach Lou Duesing. “He was just a solid, hardworking teammate.”
Not everyone on a cross country team can be a top runner. Every unit needs guys that can help out with the scoring, the solid guys in the middle, to make it successful. Reif never led the cross country team in a race. But he was always at practice; he always worked hard, and he was always a contributor.
“He was out there every day, working hard,” remembered Duesing.
His determination extended past his Cornell career too. After he graduated he began training for triathlons. However, one day, out on a training ride, a car struck his bike, killing him. That was one year out of school, and his Cornell teammates wanted to make sure he was remembered.
“They wanted some way to perpetuate his memory,” said Duesing. “One of those ways was this meet.”
So, every year the Cornell cross country teams hold the Reif Memorial Run a week before the Heptagonal championships. The coaches typically use it to round out their line-ups before Heps and give the runners not competing in the post season a final opportunity to show some improvement for the year.
“The Reif really is democracy in its purest sense,” said men’s distance coach Robert Johnson. “The first one across the line will run with the other 11 at Heps.”
Both the men’s and women’s teams will hold their top 11 runners out of the meet in preparation for Heps. Only 12 runners from each team can participate in the Heptagonal championships.
“We’re very limited in who we can take to these meets,” said Duesing.
That means the Reif offers runners a chance to step up and take hold of their own destiny.
“I’d like to see the several guys … who can win the race step up and run really well,” said Johnson.
With the open spots in the postseason lineup at stake, the runners have a unique sense of purpose this weekend. Either they succeed or their season ends.
“Typically this is a race that people get fired up for,” said Duesing.
Heps, NCAA Regionals, perhaps even nationals, pride, it’s all on the line.
“What you want to do is get out and have the best run you can,” Duesing continued.
“I’d like to see them all run their best race,” agreed Johnson.
“You’d really like to show them how much they’ve improved,” said Johnson about the runners in the Reif.
However, he noted, the cold, wet conditions might prevent an actual improvement in times on the course.
The top 11 on both teams will train through the weekend, resting up for Heps.
“We basically decided to hold the [top 11] guys out because five miles in cross country takes a lot out of you,” said Johnson. “I want them to be feeling their best and perform their best.”
“We’re just staying on our workout schedule,” said Duesing about the women’s team.
The weekend off maximizes the teams’ speed at Heps and sets the runners up for all the postseason races afterwards. For the Red, those are what truly matter.
Today though, the field belongs to everyone on the team, so the runners can see their hard work pay off in results and earn a chance to compete, to contribute on the team. The women’s race goes down on the Moakley cross country course at the Robert Trent Jones golf course at 4:30. The starter’s pistol for the men’s race goes off at 5:00.
It’s something John Reif would be proud.
Archived article by Matt James