July 18, 2006

Learning What Counts With Cornell Athletics

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The life of a student, like the life of an athlete, is a game of numbers. We don’t run around with a number emblazoned on our backs, but Cornell will give you each an ID number that will become the nine digits closest to your heart. Nobody will care what your scoring average is in intramural basketball, but you’ll spend hours worrying about test scores, the curve, and GPAs. Professional athletes haggle over salaries worth millions of dollars; Cornell students must learn how to budget earnings from campus jobs that pay roughly $6.50 an hour to cover the endless expenses of neccessities like beer, gas, tuition and rent.
But, at least for another month, you don’t have to worry about the numbers that concern a college student. However, it’s never too soon to start learning the statistics, records, and numbers of Cornell athletics. In that spirit, here is a quick math lesson about sports on the East Hill.

One is for the solitary athlete returning to campus who bears the distinction of being named the Ivy League Player of the Year. That would be senior Liz Bishop, an outside hitter on the volleyball team. At the end of the 2005 season, the Red had claimed its second consecutive league title and Bishop was named the first All-American in the history of the program. She also led the Ancient Eight in kills per game, and broke the school record for career kills.

Number two is the place that sophomore Troy Nickerson finished in his first appearance at the NCAA wrestling national championships. His 8-3 defeat at the hands of Indiana’s Joe Dubuque was only the second loss the All-American suffered during his freshman campaign, in which he went 32-1 in the regular season.

Max Seibald. Jeomi Maduka. Adam Gore. These three names might mean nothing to you now, but they will soon enough — the trio represents the Ivy League Rookies of the Year in men’s lacrosse, women’s basketball, and men’s basketball, respectively. Seibald was the second-highest freshman point scorer in the nation, tallying 29 points in his first season with the men’s laxers. Gore was among the best basketball players in the league, sinking a league-high and school-record 83 3-pointers during his first tour of duty in the Ancient Eight. And even though she missed a few games while she was setting records for the women’s track and field team, Maduka still set the pace for the Red on the hardcourt in points, steals, and rebounds per game in 2005-06.

While a Cornell basketball team has n’t been invited to the Big Dance in over a decade, four teams earned a spot in NCAA national championship tournaments last year. Maybe you’ve heard about the men’s hockey team’s heartbreaking triple-overtime loss to eventual champion Wisconsin in the quarterfinals, but what about the volleyball team, and the men’s and women’s lacrosse teams? Each lost in the first round, but maybe things will be different next year…

… things will surely be different for the five Cornell athletes that made the jump to professional sports in the last few months. Offensive lineman Kevin Boothe ’05 will head west after being selected by the Oakland Raiders in the sixth round of the NFL Draft. Goaltender David McKee ’07 has also found a new home in California, as he signed a contract with the Anaheim Ducks of the NHL in April. Teammate Sasha Pokulok ’08 also moved on to the NHL, as the defenseman signed with the Washington Capitals in July. Midfielder Joe Boulukos ’06 was selected 16th overall in the Major League Lacrosse draft by the Chicago Machine, and has since been traded to the Baltimore Bayhawks, and pitcher Rocky Collis ’06 was taken in the 28th round of the MLB draft by the Seattle Mariners.

My counting abilities might be suspect, but nobody can doubt the dominance of the Red athletes that brought home nine Ivy League titles in 2005-06. If you’re looking for champions, check out volleyball, indoor and outdoor men’s and women’s track and field, men’s and women’s lacrosse, wrestling, and men’s lightweight rowing.

Championships are the norm for the women’s track and field team, which has won 10 consecutive Heptagonal crowns in the past five years of indoor and outdoor competition, an unprecedented run of dominance in the Ivy League.

The privilege of paying for season tickets for men’s hockey team is highly prized among Cornell students, but for the first time in years, we’ll have to pay to attend the events of 11 other teams as well. Due to a communication snafu between the Student Assembly and the Athletics Department, the funding that allowed Cornell students free access to all sports other than men’s hockey disappeared — although playing spectator for over half of the Red’s 36 varsity teams will still be free.

Cornell sightings on ESPN are as rare as sobriety on Slope Day, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have excellence in our midst. The Red produced 23 All-America selections in 2005-06, a group that includes representatives from the men’s swim team, women’s track and field, football, volleyball, wrestling, men’s and women’s lacrosse, and gymnastics.

I haven’t taken a math class in almost four years — whoo college! — so I think that’s about as much as I can take for now. Just remember, Cornell is more than an Ivy League education. We’ve got some decent athletes, too.