Tom Cirrito, a first-year Yale student, set world’s record for dribbling a basketball while running a mile

Tom Cirrito broke a world record in a whole new kind of sport. (Photo:

By Joel Alderman

A would-be college basketball player is turning to the sport of cross country, but the new Yale first year student, Thomas Cirrito, is not entirely letting go of the hoop game that he loves. Cirrito, while training at home in Miller Place, NY this summer, discovered what many of roundball addicts are getting to know. There is a growing popularity running a mile while dribbling a basketball.

Cirrito was captain of his high school cross country team, averaged 19 points last season in hoops, and earned all-state division honors for his court exploits.

He was encouraged by his high school cross country coach to do the dribble and run before leaving for college, and Yale coach Paul Harkins thought it was a “cool” idea, according to Cerrito. “So, I ended up giving it a shot,” he explained.

Then on a hot summer day on his high school track at Miller Place NY, basketball in hand, he did the double duty run in 4:33.75, beating by fractions the previous record, which was 4:33.9.

Not as easy as it looks

“Dribbling a basketball while running is much tougher than it looks,” said Cirrito. “Ball control was not too big of an issue for me because I’m so used to having a basketball in my hand. It was tougher when I got tired and, in my head, I was just telling myself ‘Do not mess up my dribble’. I would say the toughest part was that I could not turn to my arms like I can in a normal race. It was not easy to pick up speed and you cannot rely on your arms for help.”

He originally planned on playing basketball in college. What eventually led him to Yale, perhaps to the disappointment of James Jones, the longest serving hoop coach in the Ivy League, was the switch to focusing on track and field.

“It was not until the fall of my senior year that I decided to reach out to track coaches,” Cirrito said. “I ended up sending emails to a bunch of high academic schools and before I knew it, I had my first visit scheduled at Yale. I went into my visit still leaning towards basketball and not knowing what to expect. I left and I told my parents that I thought I wanted to go to Yale. There is just something special about Yale. I wanted to go somewhere where I would be challenged academically and athletically.” (

A warm welcome at Yale

“I really liked the coaching staff at Yale,” said Cirrito. “I got the feeling that they really believe in me and had a good plan set in place to help me reach my potential. The guys on the team are also an amazing group of guys and the camaraderie between everyone was something that stood out amongst everything. I went on a few more visits but when everything was done and I sat down to make a pros and cons list for Yale, I was stumped on the cons list.”

At this point there are no sports contests at the Ivy League level. Basketball is still uncertain, even after the league’s self-imposed moratorium to Jan. 1st. But if there is to be any exception, what sport is by its nature better for social distancing than cross-country?

Perhaps for Cerrito he made the correct decision. “I learned from this experience (dribbling and running) that it is cool to do something unorthodox every now and then to test my abilities outside of traditional workouts and races.”

Now that he is at Yale, he may get the chance to run cross-country. But if he does, it will be without a basketball.

Researching the records:

6: 57.96 Colin Shaver, May 24, 2018
5: 29 *Nick Symmonds, Aug. 23, 2019
5:16.36 Lauren Davenport Johnson, July 2020 (exact date not available)
5:08.57 Sydney Masciarelli, July 24, 2020
4:52 *Thomas Schauerman, Aug. 27, 2018
4:37 *Dylan Sorenson, May 16, 2020
4:33.9 Tennessee Tremain, July 18, 2020
4:33.75 Tom Cerrito, August 2020 (exact date not available)

* fractions of seconds cannot be obtained

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