It is no secret that while I like writing about local collegiate athletics, I LOVE writing about local athletes competing for local colleges.
While some of the team rosters at Tompkins Cortland Community College are very lean on local athletes, the brand new cross country team is not. Of the eight runners representing the Panthers’ newest sport, seven are from the Ithaca/Groton/Dryden area, and their assistant coach Rich Bernstein is learning to make adjustments to the new program as well.
Bernstein coached track and cross country at Ithaca High for decades, and he laughed when I said, “As a high school coach, you just had to recruit kids from within one district. That has changed, has it not?” Bernstein replied, “It sure has, and it really helps that the guys are recruiting in the dorms and dining halls.” He added, “We picked up two former football players and a former wrestler, all good athletes that were looking for something to do to keep competing.”
Cross country teams must have a minimum of five runners to compete, and at eight, the Panthers have the numbers. There is no maximum number, and the coaching staff hopes to bring the total up a bit higher. Bernstein said, “Teams usually carry between 8 and 13 runners. You can pick up runners along the way, as long as they qualify, and we are about to get a young lady to join the team.”
Of the runners presently wearing the TC3 uniform, Bernstein said, “About half of them have cross country experience, and the other half we will teach.”
That is clearly a big change for the first-year collegiate coach, as he is accustomed to carrying “an army” on his roster. I asked him to describe any other changes, and he said, “The biggest difference is not knowing the athletes well [Bernstein often coached Ithaca High School athletes for several years, and knew them before they reached his teams], and adjusting to the fact that we have to work around their lives. They have school responsibilities, running, and most of them have jobs. If one says ‘I can’t make practice because I have to work,’ we have to respect that.”
Another difference collegiate runners face as they make the upward move is the actual distance of the races. While a high school cross country race is 5 kilometers, college races are 8 kilometers. “That’s a big difference, going from running 3 miles to almost 5,” he said.
When asked what similarities exist, Bernstein said, “They’re all great kids. When an athlete is competing as a distance runner, it’s a matter of training and fortitude. It’s the same question, ‘How much pain can you take?’”
The local athletes include: Anthony McLain (Ithaca/Dryden), Robert Brehm, Griffin Scarlata and Elijah Speight (Groton) and Logan Lancaster and Andrew McDaniel (Dryden).
The Panthers have competed in two meets thus far, and will take part in three more before the NCAA’s begin in November. Details can be found at www.tcpanthers.com.
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So, Kyle Dake is not Superman…
At last year’s World Championships, Dake rolled through the meet in dominant fashion, racking up 37 points while not allowing his opponents to score a single point en route to his first world championship. Last weekend, Kyle claimed his second world title by defeating Jabrayil Hasanov of Azerbaijan for the second year in a row. While Dake did surrender 6 points over the course of the tournament, he scored 27 in running his record at the World Championships to 8-0.
Of course, given Dake’s recent dominance on the world stage, many ask about his path to an Olympic berth, and possible championship. Dake has every intention of fulfilling his lifelong dream to become an Olympian, and he will – as is his custom – work tirelessly to get there, but the weight class he has dominated at the World Championships (79 kilograms) is not an Olympic weight class. Dake will likely compete at the U.S. Olympic Trials at 74 kilograms, and will have a battle on his hands to get to Tokyo in 2020. As always, he will show up well prepared and ready to give it his best shot. The Olympic Trials will be held at Penn State, in April of 2020.