It all started with a simple handshake and Coach George Gibbs short remark of “We’ll fix that right up,” which enticed now senior Jac Cornell to join the Emmaus fitness team.
Weighing less than 100 pounds as a freshman, Cornell started his journey with the fitness team on the buddy test team, a group for those who did not meet the prerequisite to go into the national competition in San Diego.
His goal for sophomore year was to make the A team so he could compete.
Cornell scored a 465 out of 500 at nationals, ranking him 10th that year. The only person to have ever earned a perfect score was Emmaus graduate Jake O’Donnell in 2001. Now the team uses turf instead of grass, which makes running fast more difficult. While a perfect score seemed near impossible to achieve, Cornell still made it his goal. Cornell worked even harder his junior year, beating his rival on the team and achieving a of 489. This score placed him second in the nation.
This year, although the turf conditions were worse than normal, Cornell scored a 491, ranking first place in the nation, a goal that took him four years to achieve.
Along with Jac winning the national title, the boy team won overall and the girls won second place.
Throughout his four years on the team, Cornell always worked hard to improve himself, but his emotions toward the competition changed.
“I went from being excited to compete and focusing on the meet [to focusing on] the experiences and the relationship,” Cornell said. “In San Diego, you sleep in bunks together and eat at the mess hall. It’s a bonding experience few people experience.
“You cry together, you laugh together,” he said. “That’s something so much more important than the score and that’s what it’s all about the relationship and the reward for the hard work. A lot of time there are a lot of rivalries but this year I wanted to make it a point to enjoy spending the time with people my age who have similar passions and similar goals.”
Coach George Gibbs, noticed Cornell’s improvement on the team and knew Cornell deserved to finally win the national title.
“Jac has matured each and every year,” Gibbs said. “It was a three-year event seeing him progress, and he never let up. The nice thing about Jac is that he’s a good role model.”
Cornell has worked hard through each practice, understanding his role in helping the team overall. Alongside Cornell, senior Reilly McGinnis competed and won fifth place. Although this was her first year competing, McGinnis worked hard from the beginning and helped the girls’ team win second place nationally.
McGinnis enjoyed the unforgettable experience that competing at nationals had to offer.
“Each and every person worked hard all season,” McGinnis said. “And it was amazing to finally see all of the hard work pay off.”
McGinnis ended up making the gold team, a special recognition for everyone who ranked individually.