Four years ago, sophomore Jimmy Wyner’s father convinced him to go out for his high school’s track team rather than continue with crew, the sport he had competed in the previous spring. Track is more spectator-friendly, and naturally his father wanted to see his son in action. Posting a successful first season, other members of Wyner’s team prodded him to stop playing varsity soccer and join their nationally ranked cross-country team. After some contemplation, Wyner left the soccer field to compete amongst some of the nation’s best scholastic runners for the remaining two years of his high school career.
“[Running] kind of just fell into my lap,” Wyner said.
Already, Wyner has established himself as one of the top mid-distance runners in the country, setting three freshmen records and one school record in just one season on the East Hill. He brought his time in the 800 down 4.5 seconds last year, an improvement that most athletes would be happy to see over four years, let alone one.
“Coming in, I had high expectations for him,” said men’s distance coach Robert Johnson. “He has unlimited potential. The sky is the limit for him.”
This indoor season, Wyner has continued to push those limits, setting another school record in the 1,000 (2:24.58) and improving his time in the mile nearly five seconds more. This past weekend he surpassed the NCAA provisional-qualifying time in the mile for the first time with an impressive 4:03.48. Unfortunately Wyner’s time was not quite enough to get him an invitation to the championship meet this weekend, but nonetheless it was an accomplishment.
“[The race] went out a little too slow to qualify for nationals, but I was still happy with my race,” Wyner said.
Last weekend was only the third time this year Wyner has run the mile in competition, as he spent most of the season competing in shorter races such as the 800 and the 1,000. A very versatile runner, he has also found success in the 3,000 and five-mile cross country races.
“I can pretty much run any distance, but each event has its own special feel,” Wyner each event has its own special feel,” Wyner said. “The 800 is all out from the gun, where the mile is more of a distance event.”
Wyner’s ability to succeed in multiple events is part of what has made him so successful, but another component to his success is his competitive edge and drive to do well.
“Jimmy really likes to win, but he also doesn’t fear failure – he views everything as an opportunity,” Johnson said,
Since coming to Cornell, Wyner has not finished worse than fourth in any event.
“When the gun goes of, he puts himself out there. He doesn’t take the safe route,” Johnson said.
Although many of his accomplishments have been individual, Wyner emphasized the team aspect of running as well.
Last year’s IC4A championship 4×800-meter relay was a turning point for Wyner in his running career. Working as part of a team to make up for lost time, Wyner ran a split of 1:48.9 to gain the lead and helped set a school record in the event. That race gave him the push he needed to run even faster.
“It was about me knowing I could run that fast and have the confidence that I could do it,” Wyner said. “After that I had a great outdoor season.”
In just four short years, Wyner has made incredible strides on the track, and hopes to continue to improve throughout the remainder of his collegiate career and perhaps even afterwards. For now, he is going to take it one step at a time. During the outdoor season, he would like to set a school record in the 1,500 and qualify for nationals. After that, he’ll see where it goes.
“Right now I just want to race well and run faster than ever before,” Wyner said. “I’m just going to run as fast as I can and see where it takes me.”
Johnson would like to see even more out of Wyner over the next two and a half years.
“His training has come a long way, and eventually it will pay off in volumes,” Johnson said. “He still has room for improvement – this is really just the tip of the iceberg.”