Former Lion Delilah DiCrescenzo, CC '05, is not just known for her impressive record as a former member of the Light Blue's track and field team—she's actually had a hit record written about her. Don't let the song fool you, though, this Delilah has done a whole lot—and not just in New York City. DiCrescenzo has represented Team USA at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, been sponsored by Puma, been to the Olympic trials, volunteered as an assistant coach for Columbia, and has even attended the Grammys. But, for better or worse, she was the muse for the song "Hey There Delilah" by The Plain White T's. It's a source of both pride and embarrassment for her. "I'm definitely proud of it," DiCrescenzo said. "I know it's definitely something that's going to follow me around whether I like it or not, so I better embrace it—which I've definitely become better at doing," DiCrescenzo met the song's writer, Tom Higgenson, through a mutual friend while at a concert in Chicago in 2003. While admitting the song was a "nice kind of dimension to have," she went on to explain that the song did not feel as personal as it seemed, as she barely knew Higgenson. DiCrescenzo did, however, get to attend the 2008 Grammys, where the song was nominated for Song of the Year. "It wasn't an ode or a love song as much as it looked like," she said. "It doesn't really feel so personal to me. It just seemed really peculiar and curious, but fun nonetheless." Of course, inspiring a song was not DiCrescenzo's only accomplishment while at Columbia. During her time in Morningside Heights, DiCrescenzo competed in various track events, focusing mainly on the steeplechase. "My favorite race that I've ever seen her run was at the Ivy League freshman year," DiCrescenzo's former coach, and now colleague, Willy Wood explained. "The first time they had the steeplechase—and she won the meet very convincingly—you could tell from that point on that something sparked within her and she got very excited about running." DiCrescenzo, too, has fond memories of that race. "I remember coming off of that race being so energetic because I exceeded what I thought I could do," she said. "I had no expectations, I just went out there and ran." Something must have sparked within her, as she still holds records of top performances with the Lions. She also helped lead one of the most successful periods in Light Blue cross country history, with five straight Ivy League Championships and Top-25 national finishes from 2000-2005. "It was an amazing experience for me," DiCrescenzo said. "It's why I continue to be involved with the program. It's given me a lot of opportunities to develop as a whole person and set me up in my professional career." After graduating, she coached for a short time at Bryn Mawr and then came back to help as a volunteer assistant coach at Columbia while she worked on her masters degree in sports management. Due to her own training schedule, DiCrescenzo isn't as involved with the Lions as she used to be, but she does occasionally help the team out. She believes that she's gained a lot from working with the Lions, saying that they provide her with team spirit that reminds her of her own passion for the sport. DiCrescenzo is also one of the few American runners to be sponsored by Puma. As a part of her sponsorship, she has done some "unique marketing campaigns" that included a web series last year, which can now be found on YouTube. "It offered an inside look into the life of a professional track athlete, which was something that was previously missing—for the fan, at least," DiCrescenzo said. DiCrescenzo has a record of representing Team USA. After representing USA multiple times at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships and at the Americas Cross Country Championships, she also tried to make the Olympic team. She admitted the Olympic trials were a little disappointing due to a recent injury that prevented her from running her best. There is still some hope for a future Olympics possibility, but she says her "vision is much more short-term than that." But even if she never makes it, she'll always be "Hey There Delilah." email@example.com...
As students return to their dorms from summer vacation, tales of their summer escapades usually fill the halls. For two talented Columbia athletes, tales of summer include breakfast with Michelle Obama. Even more impressive? It was at the XXX Olympic Games in London, where sophomore Nzingha Prescod and senior Nicole Ross both represented Team USA in the women's individual foil for fencing. In the year leading up to the Olympics, both Prescod and Ross chose to take time off from school to train. "I wanted to forgo school until I could give it my full attention," Ross said. Although both Ross and Prescod were already training at a high level, the time commitment increased as the two trained more rigorously during the year-long qualification leading up to London. "That entire time was practice almost every day, if not twice a day," Ross said. Prescod elaborated on the specifics of their workouts: "During the day, I would do Pilates, core strengthening, and we would row for conditioning," she said. "We would be bouting six days a week, actually sparring with an opponent." Four days of the week, Prescod would train five hours a day and for another two, she would train for two to three hours. But clearly, the training paid off this summer as they headed to London. Although both Prescod and Ross had previously attended the World Championships, the Olympic Games were an incomparable experience, they said. "Everyone is just catering to you. You're treated like a princess all the time," Prescod said. "Everything is all taken care of for you and all you have to worry about is your event and having fun." And although both Prescod and Ross said that competing in the event itself was the high point of the Olympics, both listed receiving free Team USA apparel and "cool gear"—including bedding from the Olympic Village—as among their favorite memories. Prescod also mentioned the fencing team's breakfast with Michelle Obama as one of the best parts of the experience. "She special requested the fencing team," Prescod explained. "I think for me, it was getting to be on the strip with my teammates and showing what we could do," Ross said when asked about her most memorable moment. But getting to the Olympics took a lot of hard work. For both athletes, the path to London started at a young age. Prescod and Ross were very athletic, and after trying various other sports as little girls, they both settled into fencing. "My mom suggested it because I always loved movies with fencing in it ... like 'The Princess Bride,'" Ross said. "She called up the Fencers Club and it just sort of stuck." The Fencers Club, located in Chelsea, is the oldest continuous fencing club in the United States, the home of the Peter Westbrook Foundation, and the birthplace of both Prescod and Ross's fencing careers. The Peter Westbrook Foundation, "basically introduce[s] you to the sport," Prescod said. "They thought I had a lot of potential so they sponsored me to go to the Fencers Club. They paid for membership, lessons, and traveling." The Peter Westbrook Foundation and the Fencers Club not only financially supported a blossoming talent but also provided a network of emotional support and friendship. "They were my family. They were supporting us all," Prescod explained. In fact, her links to the Fencers Club were so strong that it was one of the factors in her choosing to attend Columbia in the first place, as she wanted to continue training with them. This was also the start of her longstanding friendship with fellow teammate and Lion, Nicole Ross. "I've known [Nzingha] since she was probably 10 or 11 years old. She's truly incredible. One of the best American fencers out there," Ross said. "You know when you travel with someone, you have a bond that is very different. I look at her as a little sister, but I learn a lot from her." Michael Aufrichtig, Columbia's head fencing coach—who also attended the Summer Olympics as a modern pentathlon coach—was able to witness the growth of these two women. "I remember one time, I was reffing at Columbia and I heard this one woman screaming and yelling and going crazy on the strip. And that was Nicole Ross," Aufrichtig said. "I was like, This girl is going to go someplace.' I saw her develop from an amazing fencer to an Olympic fencer." Aufrichtig was able to see Prescod develop her talent. "I saw her grow from a 10-year-old fencer," he said. "While she's on the strip, she's—I don't want to say the Terminator, but she's a very powerful force. Very different than if you would meet her at any other time." Through years of training and balancing fencing with schoolwork—as Columbia students, they have a heavy courseload—the two have arrived where they are today Next, both Ross and Prescod will have a short break from fencing, before they return to the World Championships. In four years, we may see them yet again at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. But for now, they will continue to practice. "I don't look at it as training for the Olympics again," Prescod said, "just training. Always trying to get better." firstname.lastname@example.org...