ITHACA, NY -- For those tuning into the coverage of the 2020 Olympic Games later this year, the chances of hearing “… an alumnus of Cornell University” just increased, as Taylor Knibb — Cornell class of ’20 — just punched her ticket to Tokyo by winning the World Triathlon Championship Series race in Yokohama, Japan. With the victory, Knibb earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic Triathlon Team.
Those aware of Knibb’s performances over the past few years are not surprised by her success, given she is a two-time U.S. Junior National Triathlon Champion. Just 23, she becomes the youngest woman triathlete to ever represent Team USA at the Olympic Games.
While at Cornell, Knibb was a two-time Academic All American, a two-time First Team All-Ivy League selection, and, according to Cornell’s website, Knibb “won the NCAA Elite 88 Award in cross country for the highest grade point average of all competing at the NCAA National Championships in 2018.”
And, as if being an Academic All American and an elite Division I runner left her feeling like she could add something else to her plate, Knibb walked onto the Big Red swimming and diving team in 2019, and put up points at the 2020 Ivy League Swimming and Diving Championships.
I caught up with Mike Henderson — now in his fourth season as the Alan B. '53 and Elizabeth Heekin Harris Head Coach of Women's Track & Field/Men's and Women's Cross Country at Cornell — who called Knibb “a joy to work with.” He added, “Everyone who knows Taylor is aware of her motivation, her drive and her competitive spirit, so no, we are not surprised. Impressed, but not surprised.”
Looking back at Knibb’s final act at Cornell, Henderson said, “She finished the swimming season and jumped right into the indoor track season with little (specific) preparation, but she did well and was preparing for a fantastic outdoor season.” That was in the spring of 2020, and we all know what happened next…
After graduating, Knibb turned her considerable focus to full-time training, and she is now residing in Colorado, where she can better access the U.S. Olympic Training Center. I asked Henderson if Knibb’s cycling was as strong as her Division I swimming and running capabilities, and he said, “She is a very elite cyclist — it has always been her strongest event — and if she wasn’t a triathlete I believe she’d be a world-class cyclist.”
The Cornell track teams were on the bus returning from a meet last weekend, and virtually every phone was tuned into Knibb’s triathlon. She was in control for most of the race, but as Henderson said, “You never know… a flat tire can change everything.”
The team will also be pulling for Big Red alum Rudy Winkler, the hammer thrower who will be vying for his second Olympic team roster spot when the Trials are held later this year. Winkler made the 2016 team while still enrolled at Cornell.
Henderson and I spoke about the pride that accompanies watching Cornell athletes make the U.S. Olympic Team (wrestler Kyle Dake earned his spot last month), and the coach said, “Not only are they world-class athletes, we all know that they have made incredible sacrifices to get where they are. That’s why we celebrate.”
Congrats to the Ithaca College women’s lacrosse team, as the Bombers made an impressive playoff run after suffering their first loss of the season in the Liberty League championship game. The selection committee deemed the Bombers worthy of an NCAA tournament spot, and the Bombers proved they belonged there, as evidenced by the impressive takedown of #2 Washington and Lee in the Quarterfinals. The Bombers won two NCAA playoff games in one season for the first time ever, and finished at 14-2.
A couple of weeks ago, I shared (Ithaca High softball coach) Gordy Begent’s prediction that junior pitcher Jenna Plue would be bringing the heat this season, and that is indeed the case. In back-to-back games last week, Plue struck out 18 batters on Friday, and followed up the next day with another 15 Ks. That’s bringin’ it.