All eyes are on Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where the world’s best athletes are vying for the Olympic gold. The Games of the XXXI Olympiad will last 16 short days, but for the men and women competing, lifetimes of blood, sweat, and tears have lead to this moment.
Grit and dedication define every great Olympian, and time and time again, the FIT Tigers manifest that same tireless determination needed to be the best.
In early May, the conditions at the NJCAA Division III National Championships were less than ideal. Rain poured down as the athletes faced back-to-back races, since this year’s national track and field meet was shortened from its normal three days to two. Nevertheless, Tigers overcame these hurdles to end their season on a high note.
Just shy of a mile, the 1500 meter run tests athletes’ speed and endurance. FIT student Max Hamilton spent months preparing for these four grueling laps. Beyond athletic training, he studied the habits of his competitors, learning their styles, strengths, and flaws. In just four minutes and nine seconds, the event was over. Not only did Max win, he set a new school record.
“Every athlete was dedicated and hungry to compete all season long, even when the workouts were tough and they were tired,” said Head Coach Joe Plutz. “As a coach you honestly can’t ask for more than that.”
Perhaps this hunger was most noticeable when Max, still recovering from his win, stepped to the starting line for the 800 meter race. He went out strong, taking the lead. In a photo finish, he came in second, with a time a hair above two minutes.
In 2016, Max set new school records for the 400 meter, 800 meter and 1500 meter. On the women’s side, Fashion Merchandising student Sarah Lucas was the stand out. She competed both in 2015 and 2016, and her name can be found next to five FIT records. She dominated the 800 meter run, 1500 meter run, and 400 meter hurdles, and she and her teammates set records in the 4X400 meter and 4X800 meter relays.
“The people that came out on the team really made an impact on my last season,” said Sarah. For over 20 years, her mother has coached track, and Sarah herself has been running since middle school. “No matter what my times ended up being or how we all placed, it was a good close to my track career.”
This sportsmanship and devotion define athletes across the college’s offered programs, which included track and field, cross country, dance company, tennis, swimming, diving, table tennis, women’s soccer and women’s volleyball. Table tennis is also offered here at FIT, and on this team, you’ll find a prodigy and Olympic hopeful.
“When I was very little, my grandmother was a big fan of table tennis,” said Guannan Liu, a Fashion Business Management student who also goes by the name Mandy. “She took me to the table tennis school and had me trained professionally by some good coaches.”
This early training paid off, as Guannan has a habit for winning. So far, she has placed first in the 2013 NYC Mayor’s Cup, the NCTTA Northeast Regional Championships (Downtown Division) Women’s Singles, the 2015 NCTTA Northeast Regionals 2015 Women’s Singles, and the 23rd FIT Open.
“As a professional athlete, the honor to participate in the Olympics has been my dream,” said Guannan, who grew up in Guangzhou, China and now lives in Flushing, New York. “I will definitely compete in Olympics if I have the chance to.”
Can’t pull yourself from Rio 2016? Make sure to cheer for members of our SUNY family who will be competing!