Patriot League 20th Anniversary Profiles: Ray Appenheimer



Aug. 11, 2010

Name: Raymond Appenheimer
Institution: Colgate University
Sport: Cross Country, Track and Field
Graduation Year: 1994
Undergraduate Degree: English
Did You Know? Ray Appenheimer became the first Colgate athlete in 21 years to win at the Penn Relays. He set a new school record posting a time of 29:12.2 on his way to capturing the 10,000-meter race.

Ray Appenheimer is one of the most distinguished student-athletes in the history of the Patriot League. During his collegiate career at Colgate University, he earned All-America status five times; twice in cross country, twice in indoor track, and once in outdoor track. Appenheimer was the 1992 and 1993 Patriot League individual cross country champion. He was also the first Raider to receive All-America status in cross country, earning that honor in both 1992 and 1993. At the 1993 and 1994 Patriot League Indoor Championships, Appenheimer was named Outstanding Male Performer. The success Appenheimer experienced on the track carried over into the classroom as he was twice named the Patriot League Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year in 1993 and 1994. He graduated from Colgate University magna cum lade with a bachelor's degree in English.

Appenheimer continued his passion for running by joining the Nike Farm Team in Palo Alto, California. He would go on to win the national title at the 1999 U.S. Cross Country Champions and the 3,000-meter race at the 2000 U.S. Indoor Track and Field Championships. Appenheimer represented the U.S. at the 1999 World Cross Country Championships in Belfast, Northern Ireland and the 1999 World University Games in Majorca, Spain. In 2000, he qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials in the 5,000-meter race positing a time of 13:28.99.

Colgate University formally recognized Appenheimer's accomplishments by inducting him into the Colgate Athletics Hall of Honor in 2001. In 2004, Appenheimer joined Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio as an assistant coach. He just completed his fourth season as the head men and women's track and field coach and his sixth season as the head coach for the cross country program. He was recently named the 2009-2010 North Coast Athletic Conference Coach of the Year after leading the women's indoor track and field team to their first NCAC Indoor Championship in school history. Appenheimer currently resides in Oberlin with his wife, Margaret, and their two sons, Peter and Owen.

Q & A

Q: What factors helped in your decision to attend Colgate University?
A: My older brother Tom initially looked at Colgate, which piqued my interest. It was the best academic institution I was admitted to, and it afforded me the opportunity to compete at a high level.

Q: Who were your sports idols growing up and why?
A: As a kid growing up in Buffalo, NY in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I was a big baseball fan. I always liked the grittier, eye-black wearing types like Kirk Gibson, Graig Nettles and Dave Concepcion.

Q: What was your proudest on-the-field accomplishment?
A: There were two. The first was finishing seventh at the 1993 NCAA Cross Country Championships, and being the first American finisher in that race. The meet was at Lehigh, which was something of a "home" course for me. Having a big portion of my team come down, along with a slew of alums, on top of the vocal folks from Lehigh, made the whole experience very special.

The second was winning the Distance Medley Relay my junior year at the Indoor Patriot League Conference Meet at Bucknell. It came at the end of a long day - I had won the mile and 1000-meter races earlier in the meet. I received the baton in second place 30 meters behind a very good runner from Bucknell named Tom Eagleson. Art Goulden's Bucknell team had lined the track waving and swinging their orange towels to spur him on in support. I was able to catch and pass Tom with just over a lap to go. It was a lot of fun to see the towels go away that last lap and finish into the arms of my teammates, Jordan Levine, Chris Nichols and Omar Nixon.

Q: What was your proudest academic accomplishment?
A: What I am most proud of is having been able to be part of what was for me a transformative intellectual process. Colgate took a young man from an all-boys Catholic high school from Buffalo, NY and helped me think critically about myself, about others, and about the world. Colgate taught me that very often asking the right question is more important than having the right answer.

Q: How were you able to balance the demands in the classroom with the demands of being an athlete?
A: Whether it was running or academics, I always wanted to do my best. In that vein, running a hundred miles a week and reading for four to five hours a day on top of time spent in class, really complimented each another. I never really thought that one was detracting from the other. I guess it came down to time management. Most nights, I turned out the lights at 11:00, regardless of what reading was left to do. If I didn't finish my work it was likely I had wasted time before that. It was a mistake I tried not to make very often.

Q: How did your experience as a student-athlete prepare you for life after college?
A: How didn't it? To this day, the choices I make and the way in which I live my life have been informed largely by my experiences as a student-athlete. I am more self-confident, more resilient and more willing to take risks because of the lessons I learned as a student-athlete at Colgate. I am willing to accept failure as part of the learning process, to learn from my mistakes and move on because this was what running is all about. The journey taught me about delayed gratification, and about how a good day's work is an end in itself (and not always a means to an end). Persevering when your body is telling you to quit, recovering from disappointments to come out swinging the next time, committing and sticking with something even when the payoff seems so far away, being gracious in both victory and defeat - this is what is lasting. This knowledge has made me a better student, teacher, coach, husband and father.

Q: In addition to earning All-America status on five different occasions, you were twice named the Patriot League Male Scholar Athlete of the Year; is there one you're most proud of?
A: No, not really. Both accomplishments speak to what I wanted out of my four years at Colgate - to better myself, to challenge myself, and to become the best me I could be.

Q: What was it like traveling around the world and competing?
A: These were experiences I will cherish forever. Representing the United States at the 1999 World Cross Country Championships in Belfast, North Ireland, and the World University Games on the island of Majorca, were incredible honors.

Q: If you could go back to college and compete one more time, where would it be and against whom?
A: I would love to go back in time to my sophomore year and take on the 1991 Bucknell Men's Cross Country team at Van Courtland Park in New York City. That year they scored a perfect fifteen points at the conference meet. I finished sixth that day and had an opportunity to break up their sweep. Physically, I was ready to run with their best guys, but mentally I found myself rather intimidated by them. In the realm of "if I knew then what I know now," I would have silenced whatever doubts were creeping into my head that day and stuck it out. Of course getting my butt kicked by those guys was a great learning experience for me. I was able to win the next two Patriot League Championships in cross country because of the lessons I learned from screwing up so badly in that one.

Q: How did it feel to be inducted into Colgate University's Hall of Honor?
A: It was a very humbling honor. The best part of the evening was sharing the moment with my wife, my mom and dad, my coach Arthur McKinnon, and with my teammates Brett Gerry, Craig Hempstead and Jordan Levine who came out to Hamilton for the event. In the speech they let me give I remember talking about how none of my accomplishments would have been possible without Arthur McKinnon. He was the perfect collegiate coach for me and always seemed to understand what buttons to press to get the most out of me. His leadership, his guidance and his willingness to work with me (I was rather headstrong earlier in my time there) were instrumental not only in my success at Colgate, but also in me entering the coaching profession.

Q: Was it difficult making the transition from competitor to coach?
A: No, not really. In many ways my athletic career exceeded my expectations. I wasn't one of those guys trying to hang on for one more year. While there is a part of me that will always miss training and competing at a high level, I guess I looked at the end of my competitive career, not as a loss, but as an opportunity to do new things and to dedicate my energies to the next great things in my life. For me, these have been my marriage, my family and my position as Director of Cross Country and Track and Field at Oberlin College. As schmaltzy as it sounds, I am a very lucky man to be able to give back to the sport and endeavor that gave so much to me.

Q: If you had to offer current student-athletes some words of wisdom what would they be?
A: To make the most of this incredible opportunity. The four years they get to commit being student-athletes can be life-changing. Now this doesn't just happen by osmosis - by just showing up to practice every day. You need to see and believe in the importance of what you are doing. You need to commit to working hard all the time and love the process. You need to understand that whatever sacrifices you feel you are making today are going to be paid back to you ten-fold down the line. The immediate hope is that all of this will make you better at whatever athletic endeavor you are a part of. The long-term certainty is that if you do this you will be primed for a more dynamic and fulfilled life beyond your four years of college.

Q: Do you still follow Colgate athletics?
A: Absolutely! It's a bookmarked link on my laptop.

Q: Looking back, what does it mean to you to have been a Patriot League student-athlete?
A: As I reread what I have written above, it is pretty clear to me that it has meant quite a lot. Much of who I am as an adult was shaped by my experience as a student-athlete at Colgate. These are memories, opportunities and relationships that I will cherish forever.