Sunday, May 19, 2024

Sprinter creates own legacy

Charles Cypress earned three SUNYAC medals over two seasons this year.


By Michael Purtell

The Cardinals sprinters have smashed program records from across Plattsburgh’s history this year. Sophomore Charles Cypress has been a key part of that success, smashing records and scoring conference medals as an underclassman.

Cypress earned the program record for the men’s indoor 200-meter dash with a time of 22.24 on Feb. 9th. He lowered the record to 22.20 with his performance at the SUNYAC Indoor Championship meet. Cypress was also a part of a record-breaking 4×100-meter relay team which ran a 42.04 and earned himself two medals in SUNYAC competition in the outdoor season, A silver in the 200m and a bronze in the 100-meter dash.

“I’m really proud of myself. First of all for making it through this year, and second for medalling,” Cypress said.

Cypress’ love for the sport started when he was young. As a child, he was inspired by Su Bingtian, a Chinese sprinter who medalled in several international competitions, competed in the Olympics and owns the record for fastest 100 and 60-meter dash by an athlete representing a member-country of the Asian Athletics Association.

“I wanted to be like him to show people that I can do it, because you really don’t see a lot of Asian people in track and field — at least at the higher levels,” Cypress said.

Cypress’ interest culminated in him joining the track team in middle school at Cornwall Central School in New Windsor, New York. which is a member of the highly competitive Section 9.

Cypress was initially told to train as a long-distance runner because of his wiry frame. He had no say in which events he participated in as a middle schooler. He used the mischaracterization of his ability to fuel his training.

“I used to be an underdog. People would look at me, look at my size and my build and they wouldn’t think much of me, but I go out there and I think I do good,” Cypress said.

As a  self-described first-generation athlete, Cypress needed to dispel the doubts of his family, who didn’t understand why he would want to pursue athletics at first.

“My parents didn’t really support me doing track for a really long time, and I just had to show them that it’s not useless. A lot of times they would tell me that there’s really no point in doing it, but it’s what I like to do — it’s what I love to do. So I kept doing it, and eventually they warmed up to it,” Cypress said.

Cypress’ parents acted as his inspiration in other areas of his life. His mother has been a nurse all his life, and her time spent at the hospital led to a familiarity with the environment that played a big role in deciding to follow in her footsteps, Cypress said.

The desire to pursue a nursing degree is what brought Cypress to SUNY Plattsburgh. Once he was acclimated to his academic schedule, he approached the track team to commit for the indoor season.

The team was happy to have him,and he was coached by a Plattsburgh alumn who was teammates with current Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Brett Willmott.

The staff saw Cypress’ success at Cornwall which convinced them Cypress is “well prepared to do great things,” Willmott wrote in an email.

Cypress brought his work ethic with him to Plattsburgh, finding great success as an athlete and a student. He was honored on the SUNYAC Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll in his first year.

As a sophomore in the nursing program, he’s participating in clinical studies at CVPH, which create unavoidable conflicts with his athletic training. Along with fellow nursing major and track athlete Mikayla Khadijah, Cypress worked around these conflicts by independently planning morning practices with Khadijah, ensuring that the two can succeed on the track and in the classroom.

“He’s a very hard-working, driven person. He sets goals for himself that he makes sure that he achieves,” Khadijah said.

Cypress is so dedicated to his studies and athletics that often it seems like he’s only ever at practice or working in the library, 4×100 teammate Jordan Williams said.

Dedication means more than just hard work and studies. In order to succeed Cypress has to feel comfortable, which is why he changes his socks before every race when he switches into his track spikes.

The ritual started in Cypress’ sophomore year in high school, when he made the switch from long socks to ankle socks for his meets. Ever since, he’s noticed that something feels off about his races when he forgets to swap into ankle socks with his running spikes.

He’s gone so far as to run back to the hotel with minutes before his race to make sure his feet are comfortable, Williams said.

“The last time I didn’t wear ankle socks was (at outdoor SUNYACs) for the 4×100 and we didn’t make it across the (finish) line, so I think I’m just gonna keep on wearing ankle socks,” Cypress said.

As Cypress nears the end of his season, he looks ahead to his days as an upperclassman, both because of improvements he can make on the track and the increased role in leadership. He’s most excited to take some underclassmen “under his wing” and set a good example for incoming Cardinals.


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