One week after their graduation ceremonies, high school seniors across the state might find themselves unsure of what’s to come. This isn’t the case, however, for W.T. Clarke High School graduate Sarah Cornell: The star pitcher for the Lady Rams plans to work hard to achieve her softball goals on the collegiate — and, perhaps, professional — level.
Gatorade and USA Today High School Sports named Cornell, an 18-year-old Salisbury resident, the 2015-16 Gatorade New York Softball Player of the Year. East Meadow School District officials applauded Cornell for her latest of many achievements on and off the field.
“It’s a great honor to be mentioned with all those players you see on TV,” Cornell said. “It felt so amazing knowing my hard work has paid off.”
Cornell has been playing softball since first grade, and has been an important player for the Lady Rams since she joined the varsity team as a seventh-grader, Clarke Athletic Director Joshua Friedman said. “I’ve seen the work and effort she’s put in,” he said, “and for it to pay off not only in team accomplishments, but also in individual accolades, makes me very proud of her.”
With Cornell’s right arm leading the way, Clarke won its second straight Long Island Class A softball championship this spring before falling short in the state title game on June 11. Cornell had a 16-3 record and a 0.50 ERA in the circle entering the state playoffs, along with a .500 batting average, six home runs and 26 RBIs.
In her senior year, she struck out 228 batters in 125 innings, surrendering just 52 hits and 33 walks. Her “machine-like” performances on the mound and shutouts have kept the team in contention in every game, according to Coach Rachel Barry, who explained that Cornell has exhibited the drive to be the best while still improving each year.
“She leads by example,” Barry said. “She doesn’t need the title to do the right thing. She is someone you look up to as a student-athlete and someone you respect as a coach.”
Not only did Cornell play softball at Clarke, but she was also on the school’s varsity volleyball team since her freshman year, and was a captain of both squads. She has also played for various traveling softball organizations.
The Gatorade Company/USA Today High School Sports award was not Cornell’s first honor. The Long Island Player of the Year and a First Team All-State honoree has received more than 15 athletic accolades, including the 2015 New York State Outstanding Physical Education Student Award. Her name is also in the regional record books, as she is tied for fifth among Long Island softball pitchers in career strikeouts, with 1,345.
The Gatorade/USA Today award is presented to one winner from every state and the District of Columbia in each of 12 high school sports for their athletic excellence, high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field. Since the program’s inception more than 30 years ago, it has become one of the most prestigious high school athletic awards in the nation, according to Gatorade.
Cornell is Clarke’s first New York Softball Player of the Year. According to USA Today, she joins an elite club of past state award winners in various sports, including professional stars Derek Jeter, Candace Parker, Abby Wambach and Mark Sanchez.
Barry said that Cornell was extremely qualified for the award. She noted that Cornell maintained an A average throughout her high school years.
And not only does she excel in sports and in the classroom, but she also has a passion for art. While at Clarke, Cornell dived into the creative crafts field, and her works were displayed in the school’s art show each year. She was also a member of the Yearbook Club.
Her fondest memory of being a Lady Ram, she said, was of going to the state championship game last year. After facing the same Carey High School team in the playoffs three times, she said she was ready to take her team to the next level. “I told myself, ‘We have to be better next year, we can be better next year,’” Cornell said.
She plans to attend Hofstra University this fall, where she committed to playing softball when she was a 10th-grader. She will also continue to be creative, majoring in art education.