Cornell, EHS boys win national titles
The boys fitness team at Emmaus is catching up to the girls. The boys won their 13th national championship recently in a competition in San Diego, leaving them just one shy of the 14 titles held by the girls team. This year’s girls team finished second in the national competition.
The boys also crowned an individual national champion in Jac Cornell, who was competing in his senior season. Cornell was making his third trip to San Diego and showed progress in the national competition in each season.
Nick Cappucci finished third in the competition and Paul Iannace finished fourth. The rest of the team was comprised of Sean Kujas, Graham Tolson, Dave Martin. The boys “B” team was Tucker Bogac, Finn Harrington, Will Papp and Hazi Rodriguez-Lugo.
“After the first time that I went to nationals in my sophomore year,” said Cornell. “I made it my goal to become a national champion and best on the team. It was my goal after that first trip, and I sort of got it in my head that I have to do this.”
Cornell was the high scorer on the team last season with 489 points, but wasn’t crowned as the national champion. This year, he finished with a 491and went into the final event – a 300-yard run – tied for the top spot and pulled out the win by the narrowest of margins giving him the championship. The highest possible score is a 500.
Going into the final event, Cornell admitted that he was pretty worn out and was facing tough conditions, but was driven by his goal of being a national champion, knowing that it was his last opportunity.
“I was pretty drained by then, and the turf was almost melting because it was so hot,” he said. “It was the hottest that I ever experienced. It was crazy because it was so close, but it was really cool.”
On the girls side, first-year competitor Reilly McGinnis finished fifth nationally. McGinnis, who also played soccer at Emmaus and is now in training at West Point, helped lead the girls team to its second-place finish just behind Bethpage High School from New York.
The rest of the girls roster included Jill Bray, Chrissy Lambert, Paw Pah, Jacy Rader and Maddy Schmidt.
“I was proud of both of our teams,” said coach George Gibbs, who has coached the boys team since 1971 and started the girls squad in 1987. “We had a really great group of kids and they were all driven to succeed and they wanted each other to succeed.”
“My teammates were a big motivation for me and I thrived on the competitiveness between our team and the other teams,” said Cornell. “I also wanted to see everyone else on the team succeed and they were the same. That really spurred me on.”
The competition is held annually at the Marine Corps Recruiting Depot in San Diego and is comprised of pullups, situps, push-ups, standing long jump and a 300-yard shuttle run. Competitors are awarded points based on their performance in each of the areas.
Gibbs pointed out that the team was helped tremendously again this year by the Lions Club, which also hosts a dinner in honor of the team after each year’s competition.
Fitness is considered a club sport and doesn’t receive financial support from the school or East Penn School District, so the team relies on local groups, businesses and the support of parents.
The parents of the athletes, and the players themselves, have been instrumental in providing support for the team, whether raising money, driving members to meets in various areas or making the trip to the west coast to support the team.
Members of the team are well aware of the help that they receive from the local groups and are also well aware of the string of championships that the team has been able to put together.
“To be part of the Emmaus boys team that has a history of being great, and then to be part of the winning team two years in a row was really special,” said Cornell. “It’s not often that you get to be a part of something special like that.
“It just felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders and that all of the hard work and the sacrifice that I had put into the team, and all of the training paid off. It was very validating for me and it showed that if I put everything I have into doing something, that I can do it.
“I was able to make my dreams a reality through hard work. I still don’t think it’s totally sunk in yet.”