Over the past several weeks, dozens of freshmen have been issued dark blue, gold or white jerseys as members of the Bombers’ nine fall sports teams. While most Ithaca College students were enjoying their final few days of summer vacation, South Hill sports players have been proving themselves in preseason camps. If their first week in Ithaca was anything like mine was three years ago, it was an experience they will never forget.
Four years ago I shifted uncomfortably in my parents’ car driving up Interstate 83 from Maryland, a tingling pain occasionally shooting down my leg from my hip to my heel. The excitement and confidence I had felt the entire summer about joining the men’s cross country team was shattered by this mysterious injury I had suffered two weeks before while playing tennis. The entire summer, I wondered how high I would rank on the men’s team. Sitting in a Hill Center classroom, I heard that the number of runners trying out was more than 10 over the roster limit — I wondered if I would even make the team.
The athletic trainers were able to diagnose my injury as Iliotibial band syndrome after the first day of practice. Within a couple days the pain down my leg was gone and replaced by a familiar pain all over my body — soreness.
Each morning my alarm woke me up at 6:45 a.m. for a morning run at 7. Then I would return to my dorm and attempt to nap, but usually my legs were too sore and my mind was racing too fast as I wondered what I had gotten myself into. I ran 80 miles that week — my previous lifetime highest was less than 60 miles in a week.
Finally, two days before classes began, the team held a 2-mile time trial to make cuts. As we warmed up around campus, my legs somehow felt even worse than they had all week. While the upperclassmen joked around on the starting line, I tried to think of another race where I had felt worse. After seven laps around the track, I sprinted the final lap and put my hands on my knees, gasping to catch my breath. My time was more than 30 seconds slower than my personal best, but it was good enough to make the cut. An incredible sense of relief swept over me and the other freshmen who had made the qualifying time. As a fellow freshman and I lagged behind the pack on the cool down, he told me the best news I had heard all week — “We get to meet the girls team tonight.”
Since then, the group of guys that I survived the brutal trial of miles with are now my best friends. After a nervous freshman year sitting alone in a dorm room in the West Tower, this year I will move into an off-campus apartment with my teammates as one of the team’s top returning runners. Once you get through those first weeks, being on a varsity team can be one of the best parts of your next four years.