Cross country coaching legend Rich Bernstein has joined Tompkins Cortland Community College's first cross country coaching staff. Bernstein, who recently retired after more than three decades at Ithaca High School, will work with Peggy Dunham as the Panthers enter NJCAA competition in cross country in the fall of 2019.
Bernstein, who worked as a guidance counselor at IHS, coached the Little Red for 36 years. He was the boys and girls varsity cross country head coach for 34 years, and doubled up as the track coach for 20 of those years. His cross country teams won 34 Section IV championships between the boys and girls, including one stretch of 11 straight titles by his boys teams. His teams also won more more than two dozen Southern Tier Athletic Conference (STAC) titles and he has helped more than 100 athletes continue their running careers at the college level. He has also coached on the international level, serving as a coach of the USA Junior Track and Field Team for the Maccabiah Games in Israel.
"The smell of fall is back in the air," said Bernstein about why he wants to return to coaching. "I'm looking forward to being part of something brand new. It's exciting and challenging at the same time."
Bernstein, who will work with Dunham this fall to recruit runners for the inaugural season in 2019, says they agree on what they are looking for in future Panthers. "We are looking for students who want to do something special and are enthusiastic about wanting to compete. This sport is all about hard work, student athletes who want to work on their studies and on their running will be very successful."
Through his years in the sport, Bernstein is known for having talented teams, but also for working with runners of all levels to get the most out of their abilities. "I am trilled to have Coach Bernstein joining our program. His experience and knowledge will be a great asset to the program," said Dunham. "He has coached several national-caliber runners and this kind of experience will help launch the Tompkins Cortland Cross Country program."