Ruth and Gehrig. Jordan and Pippen. Cornell and Richmond?
Although Hickman cross country runners Tim Cornell and Matt Richmond might not belong with some of the most famous tandems in sports history, they have given the Kewpies’ the one-two punch needed to possibly capture a state title.
Cornell and Richmond finished first and second, respectively, in both the district and sectional meets, and are looking for the same results at the state meet Saturday in Jefferson City. Both Hickman’s boys’ and girls’ teams qualified. Rock Bridge’s boys’ team qualified for only the second time in school history.
Cornell has won his past six races with Richmond finishing second in most of them. In fact, Richmond said he has never beat Cornell in a race dating back to their days racing against each other in middle school.
Richmond said every time he would run the mile against Cornell in middle school, he would be winning until the last few hundred meters when Cornell would make his push and come out on top.
Six years of losing to Cornell has given Richmond plenty of frustration and motivation, he said.
“People keep asking me, ‘When are you going to beat Tim?’ ” Richmond said. “That kind of stuff pushes me to run harder.”
Cornell said Richmond’s success has had a huge impact on his running.
“It takes a lot of the tension off having a guy right there behind me on my own team,” Cornell said. “Last year, I didn’t have that because he was sick during the postseason. We didn’t have that one-two punch.”
Because of bronchitis he developed during the district meet last year, Richmond was unable to finish both the sectional and state meets. This year, Richmond said he believes his training is putting him in a better position to race up front with Cornell.
Calling himself blessed to have the two best runners in Columbia in his program, coach Steve Kissane said Cornell and Richmond’s desire to be the best is a huge factor in their success.
“If you want to be better, you’ve got to be willing to do things most others out there either won’t do or can’t do,” Kissane said.
“That’s in their decision-making process, and that’s a key part of them reaching their goals.”
Richmond said the biggest difference for him this year is his ability to run faster in the middle parts of races, something he lacked before.
Richmond said training together has helped him close the gap on Cornell. Richmond said he regrets not running cross country his freshmen year because that has put him behind Cornell in his training.
“I think I can be up there and better than him, but I haven’t been able to do the amount of training Tim does,” Richmond said. “The training is what separates Tim from the rest. He is so dedicated to running.”
Cornell said when he trains he looks for ways to improve his running. One major advantage for Cornell is his ability to avoid injuries.
“I try and up my training pace as much as possible without getting hurt,” Cornell said. “You have to be injury-free to be a good long distance runner.”
On Saturday, the two seniors will run their last high school cross country race. Cornell said his goal is to repeat as the individual state champion. Richmond said he hopes his high school cross country career ends in another second place finish.
Kissane said his seniors are fired up about Saturday’s race because they know time is winding down on their running careers. The way his runners have been preparing this week has given them a sharper focus on the task ahead, Kissane said.
Other seniors running their last race on Saturday include top sectional performers Janelle Cordia, Aileen Gallagher and Brianne Gallagher.
“It’s never easy to see great kids like these leave,” Kissane said. “You just try and enjoy every minute of it because nothing lasts forever.”
A three-time state qualifier and two-time sectional and district champion, Cornell has put together a career rivaled by few others.
“My career’s been good so far,” Cornell said, “but it can get a lot better depending on what happens Saturday. I want to cross that finish line knowing I put everything I had into my last cross country race.”