April 21, 2006

Laxers Leave Heroic Legacies

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In 1976 Cornell took its 12-0 record into the men’s lacrosse national championship game to take on Maryland. The Red won the game, earning the program its second national title.

However, it would not be long before Cornell picked up its third crown, as the team defeated Johns Hopkins in the 1977 finale. It was the Red’s 29th consecutive win and the last for Eamon McEneaney ’77, who was named the national player of the year that season. It was the end of an illustrious career for McEneaney, as he still holds the Cornell record for most points in an NCAA tournament, with 25 in the three games en route to the crown.

Yet McEneaney wasn’t much of a goal scorer. He made a name for himself by helping his teammates score, namely Mike French ’76, the national player of the year one year prior to McEneaney. In fact, McEneaney’s 164 career assists still stand as a Cornell record.

Thus, McEneaney was used to helping out in a winning effort, but it was his assistance in a losing situation that made this man a true hero.

During the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, McEneaney, who worked for Cantor Fitzgerald, guided 65 of his fellow employees to safety through thick black smoke down the building’s steps, utilizing a human chain method. Ironically, McEneaney tallied a career-high 65 assists in the 1975 season.

In the evacuation, McEneaney used the same approach he used on the lacrosse field and the football field (where he led the Red in receiving yards in the 1976 season) – teamwork to achieve a common goal.

Unfortunately, the time that McEneaney could have used some help himself, there was no helping hand that could reach him, as he was in the Cantor Fitzgerald offices on the top floors of the North Tower (the first to be hit) during the September 11 attacks. There is another touch of irony in the story because just five months earlier, the 1976 lacrosse team was brought to Ithaca to honor the 25th anniversary of their national title. It was the last time many of McEneaney’s former teammates saw him.

In the ensuing months after the tragic day, the Cornell lacrosse family rallied around Bonnie McEneaney, Eamon’s wife, and the four children he left behind. A scholarship was named in his honor, a plaque was placed on campus to commemorate his playing career, and the Eamon McEneaney Memorial Reading Series was established as a tribute to his love for poetry. A collection of McEneaney’s old poems was even published recently.

But besides a few mentions from Cornell athletics lifers, you don’t hear the name Eamon McEneaney on campus much anymore, and the country is not even five years removed from the September 11 attacks.

On March 17, 2004, George Boiardi ’04 was struck in the chest during a game against Binghamton. He collapsed and died soon after. Like McEneaney, Boiardi was a tireless worker who had a reputation among everyone who knew him as a great team player. Yet unlike McEneaney, Boiardi wasn’t a star, he just worked his butt off trying to become one. His reward did not come in the form of two national titles, but rather the Cornell Lacrosse Club’s 2001 Most Improved Player award.

Since Boiardi’s death, there has been an outpouring of support and remembrance. His jersey was retired and the George Boiardi Memorial Fund that was created by his family currently endows the assistant coaching position held by Ben DeLuca ’98.

A week from this coming Sunday, Boiardi will be honored again in the second annual “21 Run,” which is a 5K run whose proceeds going to help fight child illiteracy in the Ithaca area. Last year over 500 people came to event, which raised $15,000.

During his time at Cornell, Boiardi was very interested in education, as he was planning on working at the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota as part of the Teach for America program upon graduation. He was instrumental in establishing a program in which the lacrosse team would go to read to children at local elementary schools.

It has been over two years since Boiardi’s death, but with the establishment of an annual event in his honor, Boiardi will never be forgotten.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for McEneaney, a man who did so much for the Cornell community and for many others who he came in contact with. It is a shame that he has almost faded into oblivion recently.

Hopefully at this year’s 21 Run, people can reflect on the lives of both Boiardi and McEneaney, two tireless workers and team players who taught so many lessons to so many Cornellians while playing a game they both so passionately loved.

More information on this year’s 21 Run can be obtained by contacting Becky Hollenback at the Lacrosse Office or by e-mailing her at the21run@netscape.net. Registration forms for this year’s event can be filled out at the office, or at www.familyreading.org/21Run.htm.

Chris Mascaro is a Sun Senior Writer. He May Be Tall will appear every other Friday this semester.

Archived article by Chris Mascaro