Julia Nagel/Sun Assistant Photography Editor

Sophomore Bella DiPalermo (number 474) won the John Reif Memorial on the women's side.

October 27, 2021

Cornell’s Cross Country Teams Race to Honor Cornell Alumnus

Print More

Last Friday, despite the chill, groups of runners flitted about the Moakley Course located on Cornell University’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Course. Athletes jogged up and down the long field, light-heartedly tossing golf balls off the course and shouting various cheers. At 5 p.m., a long line of runners formed across the starting line, each poised to begin. At the sound of the gun, the line erupted and the race began. 

This race was part of Cornell’s annual John Reif Memorial. Runners from Cornell, Syracuse University, Ithaca College and SUNY Cortland — along with several Cornell alumni — made the trek in order to honor John Reif ’86, who was a beloved member of the Cross Country team at Cornell.

During his time as a runner, Reif was known for his positivity, work ethic and fiercely loyal support of his teammates. Upon his graduation from Cornell, Reif continued his athletic career as a triathlete. In 1986, Reif moved to St. Louis to conduct research at St Louis Children’s Hospital. A year later while training for a triathlon, he was tragically killed while on a bicycle ride. 

To this day, Cornell’s cross country program still feels the effects of Reif’s devotion to the sport and to his fellow athletes. 

“It’s definitely something special,” said freshman Andy O’Brien. “He was one of our teammates, so we always want to show respect and have our best day for him.” 

“It’s an honor,” said freshman Derek Amicon. “There’s a lot of magic to it. It’s an energy that no other meet has.”

The men’s team put on a strong performance despite the constant battle with the muddy 5K course. The group was led by freshman Brady Shute, who placed 7th with a time of 15:41.1 He was followed by junior Alec Hill (8th, 15:41.4), Amicon (9th, 15:43.5), freshman Diego Aguirre (10th, 15:50.4) and sophomore Teddy O’Kane (15:53.0). Freshman Jack Lenz (14th, 16:24.6), O’Brien (16th, 16:40.6) and junior Jacob Windle (23rd, 17:25.9) also competed. 

The women’s team also fared well, with sophomore Bella DiPalermo (18:46.4) leading the women with a first-place finish. Senior Zoe Wilkie-Tomasik (5th, 19:14.8), sophomore Elizabeth Rene (7th, 19:16.8), freshman Alexa Barton (8th, 19:20.8), junior Amanda Stone (9th, 19:32.2), junior Nina Suss (11th, 20:04.8) and senior Bella Morzano (12th, 20:08.6) finished off the top 7 runners for the Red. Senior Hailey Erkkila (13th, 20:13.5), junior Clara Harman (14th, 20:18.7), sophomore Victoria Capobianco (15th, 20:26.1), sophomore Alyssa Walker (16th, 20:33.7) and freshman Grace Michalowski (19th, 21:03.6) also raced. 

Wilkie-Tomasik said that this race was about teamwork and persevering as a group.

“We remember John Reif and what kind of teammate he was,” Wilkie-Tomasik said. “Hearing the stories from our coaches, we try to embody that leading up to the race. It’s really about teamwork and appreciating the fact that we get to be on this team.” 

The Red looks ahead to the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships, held in Princeton, New Jersey, on Oct. 30.