Ever since the track program decided to split into a men’s and women’s squad five years ago, both teams have not only experienced unparalleled success in the Ivy League but also have established themselves as one of the finest collegiate programs in the nation.
Under the tutelage of head coach Nathan Taylor, the men’s team has won two of the last three Indoor Heptagonal championships, finished in the ranks of the top-25 teams in the nation each of the past five years and has sent dozens of athletes to the NCAA championships.
The crux of this success has been a team philosophy, which combines hard work, dedication and outstanding character. Senior co-captain Gordon Hall better exemplifies these qualities than any other member of the team.
Although Hall began his collegiate career without making much of an impact, over the past three seasons he has progressed exponentially, establishing himself as one of the premier middle-distance runners in the Ivy League – earning the title of co-captain for his senior season.
As a standout in the 800-meter event at Warwick High School, Hall lettered a total of six times and led his team to two consecutive district titles. Despite this success, however, Hall had difficulty adjusting to the training regimen at Cornell.
“Often times many talented young men – like Gordon – struggle to train like a college athlete and their performance suffers. The ante is dramatically increased at the college level and much more is expected of them,” Taylor said.
Beyond this adjustment period, Hall was also forced to fight through a freshman season in which he suffered a series of debilitating injuries. Just after recovering from an ankle sprain, which he injured during his first practice, Hall returned to action only to sprain the same ankle again.
By the time he was declared completely healthy in late November, all of his competitors and teammates were in far superior shape, which put Hall at a serious disadvantage the rest of the season.
“I got to a point that season when I was running so poorly that I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to compete in collegiate sports again. But eventually I told myself that I would not let my final season be like this, and rededicated myself to getting in prime shape,” Hall said.
Mid-distance coach Robert Johnson jumped at the opportunity to improve Hall’s condition and designed a comprehensive workout for him to use throughout the outdoor season and over the summer.
The following season Hall became a different runner and began his ascension to becoming one of the finest middle-distance athletes in the Ivy League.
By the end of his indoor season the following year, Hall had improved his split time in the 4×800-meter relay to 1:52.5, over two seconds better than his freshman year personal best. His success continued into the outdoor season when he ran a points-scoring mark of 1:51.7 in the 800-meter at Heps as well as a time of 1:50.7 at the IC4As.
“One of the biggest contributors to my success at the end of the season was coach Taylor’s support,” Hall said. “He pulled me aside after a meet and told me that he knew I was a better runner than I had been showing, I just needed to trust my abilities. The very next race I set a personal best time.”
The following season he hit the ground running and immediately found his way into the Cornell record books. By the end of the indoor season, Hall had compiled an indoor school record time of 1:51.93 in the 800 and was a vital contributor to a distance medley team which was among the top-5 in the nation.
Furthermore, Hall ran a split time of 1:49.8 as a member of the 4×800 relay squad that posted the best time in the nation, good enough to establish a new school record and capture an IC4A championship.
Following a similarly successful outdoor season, Hall was selected by his teammates as a co-captain for his senior year.
“I think I was selected as captain because my career has been representative of the kind of team that we want to be, one which excels not through natural talent but through an undying work ethic and dedication to the team,” Hall said.
Due in large part to his incredible work ethic, both Hall and coach Taylor have very high expectations for the senior co-captain throughout the remainder of the indoor season.
“I will look for Gordon to score big at the Heps, and possibly even qualify for the NCAA championship in the 800-meter. He needs to shave just about two seconds off of his time, something which I know he is capable of,” Taylor said.
Archived article by Lance Williams
Sun Staff Writer