After placing third as a freshmen and second as a sophomore, winning the biggest league race of the SUNY Cobleskill’s cross country season didn’t come as a complete surprise to junior Taylor Tommell.
But being named the college’s Fred Bennett Outstanding Female Athlete Award recipient knocked her off stride.
“That was definitely a shocker,” the Guilderland High School graduate said. “I had received a few awards already that night, but I was not expecting that at all.”
That could also be said of her cross country career that has taken off with the Fighting Tigers. At the college’s recent athletic awards convocation, she also picked up her third team most valuable runner trophy.
“When I went to Cobleskill for running, I expected to be not the fastest, but up there,” the communications major said. “I ended up being the fastest as a freshman, and I thought, ‘I could do this.’ ”
Tommell was a solid varsity contributor in her final two seasons at Guilderland, but never placed better than 10th in a major event.
“I remember telling one of my friends, ‘She’s going to be OK,’ ” SUNY Cobleskill cross country coach and sports information director Mitch Tomaszkiewicz said. “She’s gone way beyond that. She’s made me look like a very good coach. I never envisioned this level of success.”
Seven times Tommell has been named the North Eastern Athletic Conference Women’s Cross Country Runner of the Week, securing the honor three times this past fall alone.
“It’s the work ethic,” Tomaszkiewicz said. “She’s a throwback kid, like a kid from 1955. She does everything you ask. She runs in the offseason. She works hard. She gets it done. It’s a work ethic you can’t teach.”
Tommell excelled in the classroom (3.70 GPA first semester), as well as on grass and dirt this past fall in earning the NEAC Runner of the Year award. The individual season highlight for the team co-captain came at the NEAC championships hosted by Cazenovia, when she became the first SUNY Cobleskill female runner to capture the title.
“It has been extremely gratifying to see her all-around development as a runner, a student, a person and a leader over the years, and believe me, her contributions to our success as a team go far beyond her individual achievements,” Tomaszkiewicz said. “She is a credit to her family and to the program at Guilderland High School.”
Tommell conquered both the competition [there were 87 other runners] and a severe case of the nerves at the NEAC 6,000-meter race.
“All week leading up to the race people were asking me how I was going to do, how I was going to do. People were expecting something big. Before the race I was sick to my stomach. I was so nervous,” the 21-year-old said. “I thought, ‘This is what I’ve been working for,’ and as the race went on I kept pushing. At the end I gave it my all, and I won by four seconds [in 24:35].”
Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake graduate and SUNY Cobleskill freshman Quinn Porter placed second to Tommell and, like her older teammate did before, went on to be named the NEAC Rookie of the Year.
“I thought I was going to win it [NEAC title] last year, but a girl came up on me,” Tommell, a three-time All-NEAC first team all-star, said. “For a short time I was upset, then I started thinking I’ve got next year.”
Behind Tommell and Porter, SUNY Cobleskill claimed its seventh consecutive NEAC team championship.
“It’s not about how you do. It’s how you do as a team,” Tommell said. “People say cross country is an individual sport. It’s not. It’s a team trying to battle to the top.”
Tomaszkiewicz said that was Tommell being, well, Tommell.
“If we lost the conference title and she won, she would not be happy,” the NEAC Coach of the Year said. “Where is that today? You just don’t see it very often.”
Tommell’s other victory in the 2015 season came at SUNY Cobleskill’s Steven A. Warde Invitational, and she ran third at the Cazenovia Homecoming Invitational. She was named to the All-New York State College Track Conference second team.
“I’ve got a lot of support from all of my teammates, my coaches, my friends and my parents,” Tommell said.