Editor’s note: This profile on Roman Cress ’03 is the third in a 13-part series by Valerie Turgeon ’13 on the alumni who will be inducted into the St. Thomas Athletic Hall of Fame on Sept. 19. Read a new profile every weekday in tommiesports.com.
For more information or to sign-up online for the induction banquet, click here:
Roman Cress ’03 reached the plateau that many athletes dream about and strive for -– the Olympic Games –- and his journey began right here at St. Thomas.
It was in O’Shaughnessy Stadium and on other tracks around the MIAC and NCAA Division III where Cress proved that he had what it takes to reach the highest level of his sport.
A national runner-up and a five-time All-America sprinter over three seasons (2000-2003), Cress still shares the NCAA Division III record in the indoor 55 meters (6.20). He was a nine-time MIAC champion and 12-time All-MIAC sprinter in six conference indoor and outdoor meets, and his St. Thomas teams never lost the team crown indoors or outdoors in his era.
In the 2000 Division III indoor meet, Cress helped the Tommies to a seventh-place team finish as he placed second in the 55 meters in a photo finish with Lincoln University’s Dayne Ross. Both runners clocked 6.25, but Ross was awarded the gold medal. Cress also placed on two 4x100 relays and finished seventh in the 2000 outdoor 100 meters and the 2002 indoor 55 meters. His best times of 6.20 (55 meters) and 10.53 (100 meters) remain MIAC championship meet records.
Despite his success, what Cress remembers the most was the bond with his teammates. “There’s not one event or accomplishment that stands out,” he said. “It’s mostly moments with my team and the camaraderie we had.”
Born on the island of Kaben in the Marshall Islands, Cress’ home nation wasn’t accepted for Olympics status until 2006. As the fastest runner from his country, he was sent to the Beijing games in 2008 along with five other Marshall Island Olympians. The Marshall Islands are in the Pacific Ocean, midway between Hawaii and Australia, with a population of 60,000.
Running in the 100-meter dash preliminaries at the Olympics, Cress clocked 11.18 seconds but didn’t advance to the next round. The performance, well over Cress’ personal best of 10.39 seconds, was not unexpected. He had retired from competitive running, had only two months to train and was fighting injuries.
Nonetheless, Cress still was recognized among the best in the world, running one lane over from Asafa Powell of Jamaica, a former world-record holder and medal favorite. The heat was shown nationwide on tape-delay by NBC, which featured all the 100-meter medal favorites’ first races.
With one Olympics under his belt, Cress wanted to try again. He qualified for the 2012 games in London, but was not able to represent the Marshall Islands because of politics with the International Olympic Committee.
Cress is still running. Last month, he went to Moscow for the IAAF World Championships in Moscow.
“I’m using this as a springboard to get ready to compete next year. I will go through next summer and then I think I’ll retire,” he said. “I would like to try for the next Olympics (in Rio de Janeiro in 2016), but that’s too far away, and I think I’ll be too old.”
Cress still has plenty of running to do, thanks to his wife, 15-year-old daughter, six-year-old son and jobs as dean of students in Minneapolis Public Schools and head coach for the cross country and track and field teams at Prairie Seeds Academy in Brooklyn Park. His daughter shares his passion for running and will compete in track and field at St. Louis Park High School next spring.
Cress is thrilled to be inducted into the St. Thomas Hall of Fame.
“I am very grateful and excited to be recognized with such a great group of student athletes,” he said. “It means a lot to me.”
Jake Barkley 2003 Football
Nikki Conway 2006 Softball
Roman Cress 2003 Track & Field
Carrie Embree 2007 Softball, Basketball
Jane Gibbs-Becker 2004 Volleyball
Kristal Grigsby 2006 Track & Field
Andrew Hilliard 2003 Track & Field, Football
Diane Loughlin Urick 1989 Track & Field, Cross Country
Janet Nagle 2006 Softball
Steve Pignato 1997 Baseball
Isaac Rosefelt 2007 Basketball
Tessie Thompson 2003 Soccer
Michelle Wong 2005 Softball