PHILADELPHIA – Highlighted by the return of 11 career ECAC participants and 14 career Atlantic 10 point-scorers, the Saint Joseph’s women's track and field team returns 32 letterwinners and welcomes 13 newcomers this year. With an emphasis on dedication in the weight room, head coach Kevin Quinn believes that his squad is at the top of its game in both speed and strength as the Hawks head into the indoor portion of the 2013-14 season.

“After seeing these kids in the weight room, there needs to be a shoutout to Steve [Notebaert] for the terrific work that he has done with them,” beamed Quinn. “The more force you put into the ground, the more you get out. They’re stronger, which is going to make them run faster.”
Quinn expects great leadership from his five captains – distance standouts Lizzy Barrett and Emma Slattery, long-sprinters Jaclyn Kogut and Katie Pratt, and short-sprinter Mercedes Yanora. This core group of Hawks possesses both the talent and drive necessary for success in 2013-14.

Recently concluding a phenomenal cross country season in which she led the Hawks through all eight meets en route to picking up ECAC and Atlantic 10 All-Conference honors, Barrett will be a crucial factor in the middle-distance events this year. On the track, the senior has earned points in the 4x800m relay in three of her previous four conference meets and took home a seventh-place finish in the indoor mile at the 2012-13 ECAC Championship.

Owning seven career ECAC points, the competitive and relentless Slattery returns to join Barrett in the distance events this year. The senior owns SJU’s school records in the indoor 4x800m relay and DMR and boasts 24 conference points, with 22 resulting from relays.  

Kogut and Pratt competed on the indoor 4x400m relay that broke SJU’s school-record in the event last season. Combined, the relay sensations own 12 conference points. Yanora scored in the 4x400m relay last season at the conference level and also competed at ECACs.

If a combined 44 Atlantic 10 and 12 ECAC points between SJU’s five captains is any indicator of what can be expected this season, the Hawks are on the road to great success under the team leadership provided by Barrett, Kogut, Pratt, Slattery, and Yanora.

Senior captain Mercedes Yanora will lead the short sprints while senior captain Jaclyn Kogut and sophomore Dannah Hayward will head the long sprints as the Hawks will look to attack on all levels, from the indoor 60m and 4x100m to the outdoor 500m and 4x400m.

“Yanora provides excellent leadership,” said Quinn of his short-sprint captain. “Her strength is probably going to be in the 200m and 400m.”

Yanora led the Hawks in both the 100m and 200m at the Atlantic 10 Outdoor Championship last year and also ran the second leg of the 4x400m relay that both scored at A-10s and competed at the ECAC level. Yanora boasts PRs in the 200m (25.60) and 400m (59.48) heading into her final campaign on Hawk Hill.

Balancing out Yanora’s experience will be second-year talent Carly McGowan. McGowan was a consistent factor on the 4x100m relay last season and owns PRs in the 60m (8.08) and 200m (26.11).

“I think they’re going to be significantly better,” said Quinn of his top short-sprint duo.

At the front of the long sprints will be the four members of the school-record holding indoor 4x400m relay (3:49.60) in Hayward, Kogut, junior Marina Rufo, and senior Katie Pratt.

Hayward was one of the most accomplished freshmen in the entire conference last season. The rookie scored in four different A-10 events last year to own nine conference points after just one year of collegiate competition. SJU’s 2012-13 Rookie of the Year also earned three of SJU’s five total ECAC points last year and holds the school record in the indoor 500m to return as a definitive consideration in individual conference rankings.

Kogut is also expected to make a strong run in her final season. The senior ran on three ECAC-level relays last year and scored at A-10s. The captain’s enthusiasm and training have been constant, and Quinn is confident that his senior is ready to go.

“In the 400m and 800m group, Dannah and Jackie are our stars,” said Quinn.

Rufo proved to be a brilliant surprise for the Hawks last season, highlighted by her role on the school-record breaking 4x400m relay.

“Marina came out last year and was a gift,” beamed Quinn of the transfer that has stepped up to be a vital asset for the Hawks.

Pratt is coming off of a knee operation and will most likely not appear until mid-January, according to Quinn. However, the senior captain and anchor of the team’s fastest relays on a consistent basis will look to make a run in her final outdoor season.  

Quinn also believes in the potential of sophomore Jenna DeAngelo.

“She came back this year very fit, and she’s going to do very well,” said Quinn.

Sophomore Alana Whitmarsh return to the long sprints while freshmen Courtney Foster, Ashley Gerald, Katie Koss, and Angelena Minniti will also be expected to make an impact in the sprints this year.

Juniors Kayla Charles and Georgia Mason will lead the hurdles in 2013-14. Charles owns school records in both the outdoor 100H (14.47) and the indoor pentathlon (3,724 points) while Mason owns the school record in the indoor 60H (8.84).

“We have one with the indoor school record and one with the outdoor school record, so we should be pretty solid there,” said Quinn of his junior hurdlers. “Charles fell in love with the pentathlon. I think her pentathlon is going to be significantly better, and she scored last year. I’m fully expecting that her hurdles are going to be significantly better than last year, which would make her a potential scorer. Georgia is a terrific hurdler, and our greatest chore there is to keep her healthy. The weight training is going to help her too. But if she does the exercises that she’s supposed to do for her hamstring, she’ll be really good. She’s really good.”

Sophomore Dannah Hayward will also return for her second season in the hurdles. The sophomore holds the school record in the outdoor 400H (1:00.11) and represented Saint Joseph’s with a 23rd-place showing at the 2012-13 USA Junior National Qualifier.

Quinn is also impressed with the leadership of senior Mia Greer, from who he expects a standout season.

“Mia gives excellent leadership not just on the track but in the weight room and in general,” said Quinn. “She’s going to run much better this year.”

Extreme depth and experience in the form of seven talented seniors should give the Hawks a phenomenal advantage in the distance events this year. Leading the charge will be seniors Lizzy Barrett, Hannah Fuller, Erin Giampietro, Erin James, Darcy O’Connor, Maureen O’Donnell, and Emma Slattery.

Coming off of a brilliant senior campaign on the cross country scene, Barrett returns as the only senior to have placed at the ECAC level last season, taking home a seventh-place finish in the mile in the indoor meet.

“Lizzy is going to be a force,” said Quinn. “She learned how to race last year. She has confidence and is going to have a great year.”

The standout factor about this particular group of distance competitors is the competitive nature among the group. They overcome injuries and fight through and, if they can remain healthy, Fuller, James, and Slattery will be significant factors on both the A-10 and ECAC levels this year.

O’Donnell (37:48.63), Giampietro (39:18.70), and O’Connor (40:58.73) are the Hawks go-to trio in the 10,000m as all three have competed at the A-10 level.

“I love that class,” said Quinn of his seniors. “I love that senior distance group.”

Also in the mix for the Hawks will be sophomore Lauren Hehir, who had a breakthrough cross country season this fall and who has already represented the Hawks on both the A-10 and ECAC levels.

“Lauren is going to be good in the indoor 1000m and mile and outdoor 1500m,” said Quinn. “She is going to be a force.”

Seniors Hannah Brown, Lisa Chen, and Paige O’Neill add to the senior leadership while junior Taylor Oskowiak, sophomores Emily Chaundy, Kathryn Cols, Tess Doggett, Melissa Donnelly, and Sara Radzwilka and freshmen Sydney Coughlin, Alexandra Fiesel, Meghan O’Keefe, Jacqueline Pignataro, and Sarah Regnault will all look to make their marks on the middle and long distance events.

Saint Joseph’s school-record holder in the 3000m steeplechase, redshirt senior Maureen O’Donnell returns for a much anticipated fifth year for the Hawks in 2013-14. O’Donnell owns the record in 10:32.58 and took fourth in the event at A-10s in her sophomore season. O’Donnell redshirted both the indoor and outdoor seasons last year but, after a successful fall season on the cross country course, the veteran is prepared to make a serious run in her final campaign as a Hawk.

SJU’s returning leader in the event, senior Erin James took fifth at A-10s and 15th at ECACs last season. Between O’Donnell and James, the Hawks boast two veterans that could make significant marks for SJU this outdoor season.

A strong trio of versatile juniors in Gabriella Becattini, Brianna Hunt, and Kati Polaski will lead the jumps section this season.

“Becattini is working very hard, and Polaski and Hunt are both terrific,” said Quinn. “We are expecting great things.”

Of the returners, Hunt stood out last season as the then-sophomore qualified for the 2013 ECAC Indoor Championship in the high jump and went on to take seventh at the 2013 A-10 Outdoor Championship. The junior’s PR in the event stands at 1.70.

Becattini was sensational in the triple jump last year, posting new PRs in both the indoor (11.19m) and outdoor (11.40m) seasons. The junior won the event at the Delaware Outdoor Open, took home the bronze at Widener, and placed 16th at the prestigious Penn Relays.

Polaski was outstanding in the triple and long jumps last indoor season, taking home multiple top-five finishes in both events. Polaski also impressed as the anchor of multiple outdoor 4x100m relay groups, highlighted by the squad that won the Widener Invitational.

Four freshmen in Katie Gross, Rachel Kline, Kiersten Moylan, and Emely Ramirez round out the jumps.

“I have one of my rules: what you do in practice, you do in a meet. These kids are running their practices – the same things they did last year - significantly faster. Remarkably faster. It should just carry over. There’s nothing secret about that.”
Saint Joseph’s will open the 2013-14 indoor season at Haverford’s Jack Pyrah Invitational on Saturday, December 7.

“We are going to improve on our showings from last year,” beamed Quinn of his squad. “I have such high expectations.”