The Colgate Scene
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|by John D. Hubbard|
Phinel the phenom|
Phinel Petit-Frere '01 wanted to try track and field when he arrived at Colgate but assumed the team was for recruited athletes only. Luckily, Petit-Frere had a class with half-miler Eric Williams '01, who urged him to give it a try.
"The coaches asked me what my times were. I didn't have any times," said Phinel, a Haitian born on Long Island. During high school it was his job to look after the kids in the house and while he was interested in sports, there just wasn't time for organized competition.
Without a résumé, Petit-Frere made a classic offer: "I'll just try to do whatever." It was quickly apparent to track coach Laura Nardelli, in addition to being fast, Petit-Frere could jump, and they decided to focus attention there while letting the speed take care of itself. Within three days he was clearing 6-foot-5.
Last year, in his first season of competition, Petit-Frere qualified for the IC4As (the nation's oldest and largest conference, with 90 colleges). This season he has again qualified for the IC4As (in the 200-meter sprint as well). Despite his success, the top-seeded Patriot League high jumper remains a student.
"There is so much to be learned. It's good I didn't have a chance to pick up any bad habits. I didn't have any habits. I think I can excel in the high jump. It is something you have to perfect. I like the challenges involved in that."
"I've never ever coached anyone with this kind of talent who has no experience in sports," said Nardelli. "It's difficult to convince Phinel of this, but he is definitely an Olympic-level athlete."
Petit-Frere has cleared six-foot-eleven this season and eyes the NCAA qualifier two inches away. Just beyond that is the Olympic trials height. Additionally, he is well aware of the Chris Dunn '73 Colgate record of 7-foot-3 that is both a goal and inspiration. There is also a sense of priority, however.
"I want to stay focused on the next step and not look too far ahead."
According to his coach, becoming an athlete has been "a big adjustment" for Phinel. He was selected a captain this year and Nardelli sees him growing into that role and maturing.
Time is critical for Petit-Frere, but the talent is there. "I'll be very surprised if he doesn't qualify for nationals this season. We've seen him clear the bar at 6-foot-11 by six inches," said Nardelli. "I'm just glad we found Phinel before basketball did."
Defense and leadership|
Pat Diamond didn't think being the only senior on this year's basketball team would be a big deal.
"It's actually been pretty tough," said the 6-foot-6 center and co-captain at mid-season. "I sometimes feel like the only one with a sense of urgency."
Diamond tries to convey just how important every moment is, but sometimes experience is the best teacher for the freshmen and sophomores who dominate the Red Raiders.
At mid-season Colgate has demonstrated both its youth and talent. "We definitely play to our competition," says Diamond. "That's a sign of a young team. But, we also don't back down from anyone. We've been in every game except Syracuse."
A freshman when Adonal Foyle '98 was a junior, Diamond came in without any pressure. He figured to learn what he could in practice and enjoy the ride to the NCAAs. It didn't turn out that way. Colgate lost in the Patriot League Tournament and Foyle departed early for the NBA.
All of a sudden Diamond was starting as a sophomore, but the biggest challenge was off the court. Coach Jack Bruen passed away just before Christmas and basketball took on a whole different perspective.
Last season Emmett Davis became Diamond's third coach and the youth movement began around the veteran, who was still handling the post. The team went 14-14 with the promise of even better days ahead.
"The sky's the limit," says Diamond of this year, despite some sketchy early outings in conference play. A second trip through the league will measure the team's maturity and, of course, the tournament, with an NCAA berth at stake, can salvage an entire season in two days.
As the warning signs of March Madness begin to appear, Diamond tries to set an example of hard work. He regularly is assigned opponents' top post players, and that means constantly facing bigger men. The one exception was Delaware's Mike Pegues, and he's a two-time American East Conference player-of-the-year. As Diamond will attest, it's never easy in the paint, though it is home.
"Covering Adonal every day in practice gave me the most confidence," said Diamond. "Coach Davis has taught me the fundamentals of post play -- footwork and positioning. It's physical, but you learn the tricks and develop a tough mindset."
Now if Pat Diamond can convince his teammates to listen to their elder.
Fastest of the first-years
No Colgate woman has ever swum the 200 freestyle faster than Elizabeth Gaffuri '03. She has also established first-year records in the 50, 100 and 400 freestyle relay with classmates Meredith Erickson, Kate Martin and Emily Pearson. The 21st century is off to a flying start in Lineberry Natatorium.
"Elizabeth's potential? We haven't come close yet," said sprint coach David Teel. "It will be fun to watch."
That fun has a price, and Gaffuri is happily paying it these days. "College is a lot different from high school. The team is closer, it's more fun and I'm more motivated."
"Her work ethic is amazing," said Teel of Gaffuri. So are the workouts. In the pool twice a day, Gaffuri swims 6,000 yards at night after doing 4,000 yards in the morning several times a week.
"Swimmers are kind of crazy. I think we work really hard all the time. I can't imagine stopping."
With all the records and potential, Gaffuri still rates being part of the team as the best part of her first season and demurs when even more records are mentioned.
"I don't like setting goal times -- it messes with my head. I just like to swim and see what happens." Which is pretty much how she approaches the 100, her favorite race ("Not too short, not too long -- just right"). "I go out and swim as hard as I can."
Elizabeth Gaffuri has already proven she swims very hard and very fast.
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