Looking back on 2019 local sports

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The year has come to a close, and the county witnessed several things to be proud of when it comes to achievements in sports. Locally was one high school state champion, two collegiate national champions and one professional world champion. Milestones and records were hit, and brand-new high school teams came to fruition, so let’s look back on the year in sports.

Champions

Perhaps the highest-profile accomplishment for Tompkins County this year was Lansing native Kyle Dake winning his second wrestling world championship. The four-time NCAA champion at Cornell dominated the competition in Kazakhstan, taking home the title on Sept. 22. Earlier this year, Dake told Tompkins Weekly this could have very well never happened.

“There was definitely a time when I hurt my shoulder that I thought, ‘Man, I might not be able to do this anymore.’ I was able to push through it,” Dake said. “I have an incredible medical team behind me. Without them, I definitely would have stopped wrestling sooner and I wouldn’t be a two-time world champion.”

Now, it’s all about making the United States Olympic roster for the 2020 games in Tokyo, Japan. The U.S. Olympic Trials will take place on April 4 and 5 with Dake vying for the team’s 74 kg slot.

At the college level, Ithaca College cross country’s Parley Hannan had a heck of a season. The senior became the first-ever national champion in school history with a huge victory in Louisville, Kentucky, on Nov. 23. Hannan won by 18 seconds, which is the largest margin of victory in 12 years.

Being named the National Runner of the Year by United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association as a senior, one would think Hannan has been running all her life. However, she never ran cross country in high school and joined the Bombers last season as a junior. She discussed her improbable rise to the top with ESPN Ithaca’s Nick Karski.

“It really comes down to my mental drive,” Hannan said. “I’ve dealt with a lot of adversities, and I think that running has always been my therapy and support system. I just ended up learning how to channel running to help me mentally, but it happened to be something I’m naturally good at. The way it helps me mentally is a huge reason I’m as successful as I am.”

Joining Hannan as a national champion was Cornell wrestling standout Yianni Diakomihalis, who won the title for the second straight year. He did so in dramatic fashion, defeating Ohio State’s Joey McKenna in the finals with a sudden death takedown.

Currently, Diakomihalis is redshirted at Cornell so he can pursue a spot on the Olympic roster. He made it through the first hurdle, finishing in the top five in the 65 kg weight class at the 2019 U.S. Senior Nationals on Dec. 22 to earn a spot at the U.S. Olympic Trials.

While Lansing boys soccer came one game short of winning its third consecutive state championship, the Bobcats did have one state champion this year. That was pole vaulter Gwen Gisler, who vaulted 11’9” to take home the championship on June 8.

Her athletic success continued in the fall, as she was named to the all-state second team in soccer. She captained the Bobcats this season as one of two seniors on the squad

Milestones

Trumansburg soccer standout Conor Baird closed out his high school career on a high note, setting the school’s career point total record with 84 goals and 24 assists. This season, he led the Blue Raiders to an appearance in the Section IV finals with a team-leading 20 goals.

Baird set the record on Sept. 16 with a pair of assists to reach 87 career points, surpassing the mark of 2014 graduate Abreham Kittel. He was also named an IAC MVP and was a member of the all-state fifth team to finish off a great run at Trumansburg.

As for the next level, Baird told Tompkins Weekly earlier this year that he’s focusing on the Division III level with personal connections to both Ithaca College and SUNY Cortland. His late father worked at Ithaca College, and Baird has “always wanted to go to IC.” The case for Cortland is that Baird has built a strong relationship with their coaches over the years, considering them “friends more than coaches.”

**Editor's note: after the writing of this article, Conor Baird said he has committed to Ithaca College.**

Baird was not the only local soccer stud to break a record. Dryden’s Casey Phillips broke the Purple Lions’ career goal record with his 63rd on Sept. 27, scoring with two minutes left in regulation in a 2-0 victory over Greene. Phillips broke Dan Holland’s record that stood for 10 years before this season.
As a junior, Phillips scored 32 goals and has pushed the record to 76. He has another year to build upon that mark and another year to attempt to lead Dryden to the state tournament.

Another junior, Lansing’s Grace Kadlecik, had a season to remember as a swimmer, breaking 24 different records. At the state championship on Nov. 23, Kadlecik set a Section IV record with a 50-yard freestyle time of 23.56 seconds. The record she broke was one she set the day before in the preliminaries. The record Kadlecik broke originally was held by Chenango Valley’s Danica Ross since 2011. Overall, she placed fourth in the state and was .02 seconds away from All-American consideration.

After improving 15 spots at the state championships from her sophomore to her junior year, Kadlecik will be looking for more in her final season as a Lansing swimmer.

The most recent milestone was reached by Newfield basketball’s Katie Moravec, who scored her 1,000th career point on Dec. 10. Moravec is just a junior and was already named an IAC MVP as a sophomore. Currently, Moravec and the Trojans are undefeated at 8-0 and are certainly a team to watch when it comes playoff time.

New Teams

Several high school teams either made their debut or returned from hiatus in 2019. A team that falls into both categories is Trumansburg football. Prior to this year, the last season the Blue Raiders hit the gridiron was in 2013. They returned in the form of eight-man football, which was not an option back in 2013.

The coach chosen to lead the return of the Blue Raiders was Julian Munoz, who was a member of Ithaca College’s 1991 national champion football team. Unfortunately, Munoz could not channel that success from his playing days, as Trumansburg went 1-5. With a very inexperienced team, those results were expected, and Munoz is looking forward to helping the program grow over the next few years.

Dryden established a bowling team for the first time ever this year, electing the school’s golf coach, Dave Hicks, to lead the way. Thus far, the team is 2-2-2 in its inaugural season. Hicks built the golf team into a Section IV powerhouse after early struggles, and he hopes to do the same with the bowling squad.

Last year, Lansing wrestling did not field a team due to a lack of experienced wrestlers. This year, the Bobcats have brought in Cornell Hall of Fame wrestler Gene Nighman to re-establish Lansing’s presence in the wrestling world.

Currently, the Bobcats are 1-2 in dual meets but have a pair of standouts in senior Gabe Stevens, who is 8-1, and eighth-grader Owen Emmick, who is 7-3.

Revisiting Past Stories

In our Oct. 30 issue, we examined the efforts of the Enclose Cass Park campaign, which has been going on since 2016. At the time the article was written, the campaign had raised around $800,000 of its $1.4 million goal.

On Dec. 23, it was announced that the campaign was awarded a $523,269 grant through New York State’s Regional Economic Development Councils. The plan is to make the facility available for use year-round rather than just the winter season.

In our Aug. 14 issue, we spoke to a couple of high school athletes set to move on to the collegiate level. Trumansburg’s Finley Edmonds stayed local and has taken up a new sport in rowing at Ithaca College. She has appeared in four races this season after playing soccer and participating in track and field at Trumansburg.

Groton wrestling standout Reese Lockwood is a current member of the SUNY Brockport wrestling squad. Lockwood won both the IAC and Section IV championship for Groton last season. His most notable accomplishment this season was placing seventh at the New York State Collegiate Championships at 157 pounds on Nov. 24.

Looking Ahead

It was certainly an eventful year for local sports, but with a currently undefeated basketball team in Newfield and three local wrestlers vying for a spot on the Olympic roster (Yianni Diakomihalis, Vito Arujau, Kyle Dake), 2020 is off to a promising start in Tompkins County.

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