February 6, 2008

Saidu Ezike Hurdles Past Cornell

Print More

Liberia is a small country on the western coast of Africa that Cornell students may or may not know much about. The Olympics, on the other hand, is something everyone is very familiar with. As a result of family ties with the aforementioned Liberia, one Cornell student has a chance to eventually compete in the Olympics.
Cornell senior Saidu Ezike is the first member of his immediate family who was born in the United States. His parents and his older brother are Liberian and consequentially, Ezike has an opportunity to pursue dual citizenship. If he does, he would immediately become one of the fastest hurdlers among Liberian citizens and would have a chance to earn a spot on the Liberian national team.
“I know it’s an option,” Ezike said. “I have spoken with the captain of the Liberian team. My chances are pretty decent. If I stay in shape and run what I have to run, I’ll be in the top three hurdlers in Liberia.”
In the meantime, Ezike’s skills are on display on this side of the Atlantic Ocean as he continues to post eye-opening times in hurdling.
Ezike garnered attention as a stellar athlete while attending Port Richmond High School on Staten Island. He won state titles in both the 55-meter and 110-meter hurdling events and was recognized as an All-American by Adidas and USA Today.
[img_assist|nid=27348|title=Faster than a speeding bullet|desc=Senior hurdler Saidu Ezike may seek dual citizenship in Liberia in order to compete in the Olympics.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]His success in high school carried over to the collegiate level almost immediately. As a freshman, he tied the school record by winning the 60-meter hurdles in 7.98 seconds.
“It just showed potential,” Ezike said of the accomplishment. “I’m a strong guy so a lot of times, there’s a question as to whether strong guys can adjust to the hurdle. The time spoke for itself. After running that time, it showed that I have a lot more left in me.”
Indeed he did, as he now owns a share of the Ivy League record in the 60-meter indoor hurdles at 7.93 seconds.
“So far this year he’s had a full year of uninterrupted training,” said head coach Nathan Taylor. “You’re really starting to see his times drop.”
Ezike believes he can post times in the 7.7-7.8 second range in the 60-meter hurdles this year. If he were to do so, he would have an excellent chance at being one of the 16 runners to qualify for the national championship races.
“I think my chances [of qualifying nationally] are good. Not great, but good,” he said. “The shape I’m in right now, I feel like I’m in 7.7 shape and 7.7 would qualify me. As long as I have a clean race, I have a pretty good chance.”
Regardless of how this season shakes out, Ezike’s accomplishments on the track have left their mark.
“My experience as a Cornell athlete has been an interesting one,” he said. “It’s tough enough going to Cornell, and being an athlete is a whole addition. It’s definitely tough. After a while it becomes routine; studying, going to classes, practicing, et cetera. I think I’m a stronger athlete having gone to Cornell. Hopefully my mental strength that I’ve gained will help me run some really good times.”
Once he finishes his Cornell career, Ezike says there is a strong chance he will pursue the opportunity to compete in the Olympics.
“Smaller countries like [Liberia] usually don’t have a lot of money to send people to the Olympics, so you’ve got to be very, very good to go,” Taylor said. “I’m doing Teach for America next year and then possibly graduate school,” Ezike said. “I’ll probably train next year, get a little better, get a little stronger. When I get faster and stronger, I could be a legitimate force at the Olympics.”