May 2, 2007

Wilfred Leaves Legacy on Track

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It might take a couple of athletes to fill in for women’s track and field senior tri-captain Sarah Wilfred. After a decorated career — which still leaves her with a chance to grab the outdoor NCAA high jump championship — Wilfred will go down as one of the Red’s top field athletes ever. As if replacing her presence and achievements were not hard enough already, the Brockton, Mass., native just captured the Championship of America award at the Penn Relays —the second in Cornell history.
And while accumulating event wins might seem easy, Wilfred’s win didn’t come without some forks in the road.
“It was kind of strange how [her win] developed,” said women’s track head coach Lou Duesing. “[The event] was delayed, then moved inside because of thunder and lighting … given all of that, I felt she dealt with it well. She rolled with the punches.”
This outdoor season, Wilfred has been dealing with unusual weather but as the championship season starts — with the Heps championship starting this weekend — Wilfred is getting in the groove, hoping to improve upon her No. 5 finish in the outdoor high jump that she had last year in Sacramento, Calif.
“She has had a tremendous year to this point,” Duesing said. “In the outdoor season, things have been shaky because of some factors that come into play; wind, water, rain … but she has found her way back and has been jumping very well.”
Wilfred hopes that with the weather improving, she can top her personal best of 6’1’ 1/2”, which she set at the indoor Heps meet last season.
“The weather has been annoying … it can work for you or against you,” Wilfred said. “With the beginning of the outdoor season, the weather is cold and it is hard to go out and PR, but as you get to the meets at the end of the season, you just have to keep working and focusing on your goal.”
While recruiting Wilfred, Duesing didn’t even think the All-American would be an excellent high jumper.
“We thought she would be more of a sprinter than a high jumper,” Duesing said. “But she has done a terrific job of being a learner and student of the event.”
Wilfred herself didn’t think her Cornell career would have gone so well.
“I think when I came to Cornell, I knew track would be a part of my life,” Wilfred said. “I didn’t know I would be this successful, that is a blessing in itself … I was just thinking about doing my best, luckily it has put me in a good place.”
That place now, is among Cornell’s elite field athletes — with Heps, ECACs and National meets still on the way. Although having Wilfred has been a blessing for the Red, her success also puts a lot of pressure on anyone following in her footsteps. Currently, the only other high jumpers on the team are senior Shawna Rossini and freshman Lindsay Zimmerman, who is a multi-event athlete.
Zimmerman, along with next year’s freshman class, will be asked to collectively replace Wilfred and all the high jump accolades she brought to East Hill. And while Wilfred will not be here to lead them, she hopes to leave a tradition that will inspire the Red to more high jump success in the future.
“I hope they can take on the standard and effort that is needed,” Wilfred said. “They can do that by paying attention to the smallest details.”
As Wilfred and the other senior tri-captains — Cameron Washington and Mogan Uceny — are heading for gradution, the Red will have to find athletes who can carry the torch (or baton) in their honor.
“We have been very fortunate through the years to have them,” Duesing said.