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Moving Up The Hill

Image: Spencer Kopko, defenseman for Cornell’s soccer team.

Spencer Kopko, a junior soccer player at Cornell University, and Charlie Estill, a junior lacrosse player, are two of the many students from Ithaca High School who “moved up the hill” after graduation.


Kopko explained that many students from Ithaca High School go to Cornell or Ithaca College after graduation either because their parents go there or because they are good schools right in everyone’s backyard. This, he says, is “moving up the hill.”


“The relationship between IHS and Cornell is very strong,” Estill said.  “IHS athletes certainly follow Cornell athletics to some extent and many aspire to play at Cornell.”


Both athletes’ careers started off with the at the Ithaca Youth Bureau. For Kopko, his career took a different turn when he joined the Academy System, but both athletes were hugely active in both the Junior Varsity and Varsity teams at IHS.


Neither Kopko nor Estill had Cornell as a first pick for college. Kopko was recruited to play for Syracuse University right after high school thanks to his relationship with their coach Jukka Masalin.


“Syracuse’s soccer coach is the assistant coach on [the travel team in Rochester I played for] so he recruited me to go to Syracuse .. I played at Syracuse for two years and just this past fall I transferred,” said Kopko.


Kopko came to the Big Red this past year during their fall season joining the team as a defenseman. Not only does Kopko have a mom who is a professor at the University but the team already had one of his close friends on it. He said it was nice to be so close to home because it allowed his family to go to more home matches. He had in fact done what a lot of Ithaca High School kids aspire to do and “moved up the hill.” He said he sees a lot of kids that he use to go to high school with.


In contrast, Estill wanted to “explore other options outside of Ithaca.” But, as his search continued he “realized that I was comparing everywhere I visited to Cornell and that maybe the best choice for me was in my home town.” He now plays attack for Cornell’s lacrosse team.


“I don’t think at the time I realized what a connection IHS and Cornell had. Now that I have moved on to college though, I can see that the success of Cornell teams has an impact on the success of Little Red teams,” said Estill.


A lot of students aspire to go to school at either Ithaca College or Cornell University after attending Ithaca High School because many parents work at both colleges, making it less of financial burden on families to send their kids to school. There is already a relationship between the High School and the colleges, but Spencer wants to create a stronger tie with the soccer team at Cornell and the soccer team at the High School.


Kopko says that getting recruited to play Division I soccer is hard because of the nature of the academy system, playing varsity just is not enough. He wants to foster a better relationship between both teams to maybe ease the recruiting process and give more local Ithacans the opportunity to play for a team like the one at Cornell.


“We’ll try and get them up to a couple games next year,” said Kopko.


For Lacrosse, on the other hand, an athlete does not need to depend on the academy system to be required able to play Division I. This made it easier for Estill to be able to play at for the Big Red.


“As a kid, I always wanted to be like the Cornell hockey players playing at Lynah or the lacrosse players on Schoellkopf, and I’m sure other IHS alums have had the same experience,” said Estill.

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