Four years ago, the men’s track team was the worst in the Ivy League. The Red consistently finished at the bottom of the pack, and its last Heptagonal Championship had come nearly a generation earlier in 1978. The women were better, on the other hand, had established themselves as an Ivy power, winning Heps several times, but without any sustained glory. In 2000, a new class of athletes entered the track programs and understood they could be part of something greater.
“There’s a thing called selling somebody a pig in a poke — something that’s not actually there,” said men’ s head coach Nathan Taylor. “You think its there. They recognized that they could have a profound impact on the future success of a program and were challenged by it. They felt like this was something they would really want to get involved in — leaders rather than followers.”
Today, the resume of the class of 2004 is remarkable. The men have won two Heps titles, one indoor, the other outdoor. The team is consistently ranked in the top 25 nationally and among the best teams not only in the Ivy League, but also in the ECAC. The women top even that and have won five straight indoor and outdoor Heps championships; they are ranked in the top 25, and are at the top of the Ivy League.
But just as this class came and conquered, now must it depart. The men are losing 13 members of their team. Among those graduating are seniors Rahim Wooley and Giles Longley-Cook. Described by Taylor as the least heralded athletes when they entered Cornell, Wooley and Longley-Cook have worked hard and become captains of the team. Wooley is a sprint specialist who holds the school record in the indoor 60-meter and 200-meter and was important contributor on the two Heps championship teams. Longley-Cook is a dependable performer in the weight events. Despite the fact he has only been throwing for four years, Longley-Cook has come very close to winning the Heps in the hammer and weight throw, finishing second at three consecutive Heps championships.
“Probably my biggest memory was winning the indoor Heps,” said co-captain Jason Hart. “Cornell hadn’t won in a really long time. We worked really hard and watching it all pay off was great. We all came together.”
Co-captains Aldo Gonzalez and Hart, and Mike Nanaszko will also be greatly missed. Gonzalez led the team in the mid-distances events. A member of the 4×800 relay that earned All-East honors at the Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America last year, he finished second in the 1000 meter at the indoor Heps this past season. Hart, commended by Taylor for his work ethic, has been an important member of the jumps squad. Hart was a consistent Heps scorer and owns the second best all-time Cornell record in the indoor long jump. Nanaszko was a member of the record-holding indoor 4×400 relay team.
“The legacy is that they have led the way in transforming the track program from the worst team in the league to the best team last year and a team that for three years in a row has been in the top twenty-five in the country,” Taylor said.
The 13 seniors graduating in a few weeks have left their mark on their team, the program, and each other. But more than the competition and the championships, these men will miss their teammates. “I will miss the friendships and the camaraderie,” Hart said. “That’s not something you can easily find out in the workplace. I made some friendships that will last the rest of my life.”
Distinguished among the many talented seniors on the women’s team are Natalie Gingerich, Kinsy Miller, Kalifa Pilgrim, Jill Crispell, Ib Stanley, Christina Eckstaedt, Merili Mosley, Ann Hansgate, and Hannah Garrity. Gingerich has been an iron horse in terms of hard work, willingness to do different events, and accept any challenge. Miller displayed great leadership qualities throughout her career. Pilgrim has been a good jumper and a regular scorer in the long and triple jump, despite having to fight through injury. Stanley developed over her career into a Heps champion and national qualifier. Crispell has worked hard throughout her career, peaking last weekend with a personal record in 400 meter last weekend. Eckstaedt captained the cross country team and set some personal records this season.
The best of the best, however, are the team’ s captains. Mosley, a sprinter and hurdler, has been elected to this role twice for her abilities on the track and service to the program off of it. Hansgate, despite suffered a horrific injury last year that has prevented her from competing, still came to every practice and meet to support her teammates. Finally, Garrity, who spent her second semester junior year abroad in Scotland, returned in July ready to go. This year, she recorded some of the best times in school history in the sprints and hurdles and is a five-time All-East and six-time All-Ivy performer.
“What allows you to have great teams is good senior leadership,” said women’s head coach Lou Duesing. “This class has not been any different from the last two, but it really goes back to when we won our the first ever indoor and outdoor championships. That senior group set a tone, they would be very comfortable on this team, and this team would be very comfortable with them as leaders. They have continued providing the excellent leadership and continuity with what’ s gone before. They have been remarkable competitors and really have led with encouragement and their actions.”
Mosley added, “I think it’s an accomplishment that we have built a team that is strong, supportive and bubbling over with team spirit. I can look back on my time at Cornell and actually see the improvement of out team. Winning consecutive Heps Championships was a huge accomplishment. I think it’ s the combination of everything that made my time with Cornell track so great. Our team spirit is always intense with a positive flare. We love what we do, and that’ s why we do it — and it shows.”
Archived article by James Rich
Sun Staff Writer