May 4, 2006

Top 15 Junior Athletes

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For these 15 athletes, the third time around was the charm. In some cases, it was business as usual, while others found themselves in the spotlight for the first time. Altogether, they are The Sun’s top-15 junior athletes.

John Ackerman, Men’s Lightweight Crew

Ackerman was the anchor of the lightweight crew this season, leading the team to victories over Marist and Hobart on April 3 and Princeton and Rutgers on April 15. With the win over the Tigers and Scarlet Knights, the lightweights took possession of the Platt Cup, winning by three seconds. The Monroeville, N.J., native has helped the varsity eight boat improve this season despite rowing on choppy waters at times. Ackerman and the squad will next be in action on May 21 at the EARC championships in Worcester, Mass.

Elizabeth Bishop, Volleyball

The outside hitter was the coal that fueled the engine for the volleyball team. After winning a share of an Ivy title in 2004, Bishop paced the offense as the Red claimed the Ancient Eight championship outright this year, making its first NCAA tournament appearance in over a decade. The Oregon native’s 1,213th kill on November 11 shattered Cornell’s all-time record. For her efforts on the season, Bishop was named to the first-team All-Northeast Region and was also awarded AVCA honorable mention All-America honors – the first player to be named an All-American in Cornell history. Bishop’s 4.88 kills per game was good enough for first in Ivy League and 20th in the nation. She was named the unanimous Ivy League Player of the Year and was first team All-Ivy for the third time in her career.

Michael Fullowan, Sprint Football

Fullowan did it all for the sprint football team this year. The running back carried the ball, caught the ball out of the backfield and returned punts and kickoffs for the Red in 2006. Fullowan’s 579 rushing yards on the season led the team, as did his four touchdowns and 82.7 yards per game rushing average. He was also a flash of light out of the backfield, hauling in seven catches for 135 yards. The highlight of his season came against Princeton, where he almost single-handedly beat the Tigers, rushing for 232 yards and two touchdowns.

Ariel Katz, Women’s Polo

A member of Cornell’s polo program since eighth grade, Katz has looked right at home in the saddle for the Red. Stepping into a starting role on a team that lost three seniors to graduation, Katz provided a needed jolt of experience for Cornell. As the Red’s field general, Katz was instrumental in controlling the pace of the game for the Red this year. A crucial scorer for the Red this year, Katz led a six-goal comeback by Cornell against Yale this year in the opening round of the USPA national championships. In the Red’s next matchup – against Colorado in the semi-finals of nationals – Katz’s performance in the Northeast Regionals earned her a first-team All-Region selection.

David McKee, Men’s Hockey

In 2005-06, McKee went 22-9-4 in net for the men’s hockey team with a 2.08 goals-against-average (GAA) and .910 save percentage, leading the Red on its way to its second NCAA tournament appearance in the last three years. McKee perhaps played his best hockey in his last game wearing the carnelian and white, making a career-high 59 saves in a 1-0 loss to No. 1 Wisconsin in the NCAA Midwest Regional final. McKee recently signed an entry-level NHL contract with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. He is expected to start next season with the Portland Pirates of the AHL. He leaves Cornell after setting school records for shutouts with 18 and consecutive starts with 102.

Matt McMonagle, Men’s Lacrosse

McMonagle again cemented himself as one of the best netminders in the country and helped the men’s lacrosse team clinch a share of its fourth consecutive Ivy League title. The junior currently ranks second in the country in goals against average (5.6), and his .626 save percentage is also good enough for fifth in the nation. In 11 games this season, he has held five opponents to three or less goals, a feat last accomplished by the Red during the 1972 season. McMonagle was named a Tewarraton Trophy finalist on April 18.

David Mitchell, Men’s Lacrosse

Coming into his junior year, Mitchell had scored a total of four points in his collegiate career. By the end of his junior year, Mitchell will have increased that tally by more than 10 times over. Mitchell exploded into the starting lineup this season to become the team’s top scorer. He leads the squad with 43 points and 36 total goals. Mitchell ranks 10th in the nation in points per game (3.58) and third in goals per game (3). Not just a prolific score, Mitchell is also timely, scoring the game-winning goal in Cornell’s 4-3 win over No. 6 Princeton.

Ryan O’Byrne, Men’s Hockey

O’Byrne, a 6-5, 225-pound enforcer, was a central component to a Cornell defense that ranked fourth in the nation in goals allowed (2.20) and ninth in penalty killing percentage (86.1). O’Byrne’s physical presence was felt on both Cornell’s power-play and penalty-kill units. He was also one of Cornell’s top-scoring defenders with seven goals and six assists, despite missing nearly a month of action due to injury. Returning to the Red for its ECACHL tournament quarterfinal matchup against Clarkson, O’Byrne was leading contributor to the Red’s run into the NCAA tournament. His efforts earned him a third-team All-ECACHL selection, a spot on the ECACHL tournament team, and a selection to the Florida Classic’s All-Tournament team.

Jerry Rinaldi, Wrestling

After placing 10th at nationals as a sophomore, Rinaldi took a drastic leap up the national standings in 2006, finishing fourth at 197 pounds at this year’s Nationals in Oklahoma City, Okla. He captured his first All-America honor by defeating the tournament’s No. 2 seed, Kyle Cerminala of Buffalo, by a score of 3-1 to clinch third place. After a loss to Phil Davis of Penn State in the semi-finals, Rinaldi defeated Oklahoma’s Joel Flaggert on his way to the third-place bout. Rinaldi earned his third All-Ivy first team honor this season, going 28-3 during the regular season, including a 12-1 mark in dual competition. He took second at the EIWA tournament for the second season in a row.

Mike Smit, Men’s Swimming

Smit swam as if he had fins this past year, breaking Cornell records in the 100-yard (44.49) and 200-yard (1:35.42) freestyle as well as the 200-yard butterfly (1:46.11) during the regular season. His efforts were enough to earn him an invite to the NCAA championships in Atlanta, Ga., where Smit went on to earn All-America honors. Competing among the best in the nation, Smit finished 14th in the 200-yard freestyle, swimming a 1:35.95. He was one of 14 swimmers to top the pool record of 1:35.96. Smit also swam in the 100-yard freestyle, posting a time of 44.37, good enough for 41st in the preliminaries. That time bested Randy Sprout’s school record mark of 44.39 set at the Eastern championships in 1985. Smit is only the second swimmer in Cornell history to go under 45 seconds in the event.

Nisha Suda, Women’s Tennis

A three-year starter for the Red, Suda has been one of the women’s tennis team’s most consistent performers. Capturing the title in the C Flight singles draw at the Cornell Fall Invitational her freshman year, Suda has won the B-Flight of the Cornell Winter Invitational two years running. Breaking into Cornell’s lineup in the No. 6 position, Suda has moved up the ladder playing as high as No. 3 singles this year for the Red. A tenacious baseliner, Suda ground out victories against Columbia, Dartmouth and Brown this year.

Rayon Taylor, Men’s Track and Field

Superman may have been able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but give Taylor a hop, skip and a jump and he’ll perform equally impressive feats in the triple jump. He helped the Red win its second consecutive Indoor Heps title with a first-place jump of 51-2 1/4, which was also an NCAA provisional qualifying mark and the third-best leap all-time for Cornell at the time. At the IC4A championship meet, he finished third while the Red took second overall. Most recently, he placed eighth in the Championship Triple Jump at the Penn Relays and also ran with the 4×100 meter relay team.

Morgan Uceny, Women’s Track & Field

Uceny again ran out of her shoes in her third season at Cornell. She placed fourth in the 800-meter dash at the 2006 NCAA indoor track and field championships at the University of Arkansas this past season. Uceny earned her second consecutive All-America honor for such a showing. In a highly competitive field, Uceny ran a 2:06.55, which was less than a second behind the event winner. Uceny was also named the ECAC championship meet’s Outstanding Performer for her efforts, which included breaking a 24-year-old Cornell record, as well as an 18-year old ECAC championship record by running a 2:04.42 in the 800 one week previous to the NCAAs. That is all said without mentioning that she was the anchor of the 4×400 and 4×800-meter relay teams that have been successful this season.

Margaux Viola, Women’s Lacrosse

Viola made her presence felt on the field in every game as she scored at least one point in every contest she played in this season, leading the Red to a share of its first-ever Ivy championship. The Penn Valley, Penn., native was also named to the Tewaaraton Trophy watch list earlier this season – an award given to the nation’s best player male and female lacrosse players. She became only the third Cornell women’s lacrosse player to be recognized on the watch list, joining the company of former All-Americans Jaimee Reynolds ’02 and Sarah Averson ’03. Over her career Viola has accumulated 82 draw controls in three seasons which is good for fifth place all-time at Cornell. She currently ranks second on the team in goals with 27, and is third in points with 34 on the season.

Sarah Wilfred, Women’s Track & Field

Wilfred literally reached new heights this season for the women’s track team. This past Friday, Wilfred finished second in the championship high jump event at the Penn Relays by clearing 6-0. Wilfred helped lead the Red to its ninth consecutive indoor Heps championship, and she was named the Most Outstanding Female Field Event Athlete at the Sea Ray Relays on April 16. She also won the high jump with one of the best performances in the nation in the high jump this season, setting a new school record by clearing 6-0 1/2.

Archived article by Tim Kuhls
Assistant Sports Editor
Paul Testa
Sun Assistant Sports Editor