PHILADELPHIA – The Saint Joseph’s women’s track and field squad returns a two-event defending Atlantic 10 champion, nine Atlantic 10 medalists, three ECAC medalists, and nine ECAC scorers from last season alone and 39 letterwinners in total for the 2017-18 indoor and outdoor track and field seasons. The Hawks welcome 13 freshman additions out of New Jersey (6), Pennsylvania (4), Virginia (2), and Maryland (1).

Head coach Melody O’Reilly, now in her third year at the helm, has selected senior high jumper Claudine Andre, senior hurdlers Rose O’Brien and Steph Toland, senior long sprinter Alex Edger, senior middle distance standout Caroline Keegan, and the veteran distance duo of graduate student Sydney Coughlin and senior Cassidy Weimer to captain the Hawks this year.  

“I’m really excited for the indoor and outdoor seasons,” said O’Reilly. “After the way we raced both indoors and outdoors last year and all of the positive performances that we had throughout the season, I’m very excited for the season ahead.”

The Hawks open the 2017-18 indoor season this Saturday, December 2 at the local Jack Pyrah Invitational, to be held at Haverford College’s Alumni Field House in Haverford, Pa. Tentatively scheduled, field events will begin at 11:00 a.m. while running events will run from noon through 3:20 p.m.

Short sprints leader Nathaniela Bourdeau is the defending Atlantic 10 champion in the 100m and 200m, the defending Atlantic 10 Outdoor Championships Most Outstanding Track Performer, an Atlantic 10 200m silver medalist and 60m bronze medalist, and a seven-time A-10 scorer in open sprint events.

Bourdeau went to the ECAC Championships in four different events last year, turning in a trio of top-15 performances between the 60m, 100m, and 200m. She was named Saint Joseph’s Most Outstanding Performer.

And she was a sophomore.

Bourdeau enters her junior campaign with PRs in the 60m (7.69), 100m (11.89), and 200m (24.28) and is on track to once again dominate the competition in 2017-18.

“Nat looks great,” said O’Reilly. “She is confident, which is what I’ve noticed most; she has a calm confidence about her.”

Sophomore Aliyah Stokes enjoyed a strong rookie campaign in 2016-17, with PRs in the 60m (8.01), 100m (12.34), and 200m (26.51), and will also be expected to be a factor in the open short sprint events this year.

Senior Claudine Andre, a high jumper who can run the 100H in 15.33, will also train with the short sprinters this year, while juniors Bridget McNierney and Janiece Murray, sophomores Caroline Feola and Samantha Spallanzani, and freshman Kayla Pfleger will add depth to the short sprints group.

SJU’s returning Rookie of the Year from a season ago, sophomore Caroline Duffy became the first Hawk in program history to score three times at the ECAC Outdoor Championships, and she did it all in one day. Aside from her relay successes, Duffy placed 22nd in the ECAC indoor 200m and improved 15 places to place seventh in the ECAC outdoor 200m. She also scored in both events at the Atlantic 10 Championships.

“I expect that with her determination, she will be just as successful as last year,” said O’Reilly of her sophomore long sprinter. “All going well, I don’t expect anything less from her. She is one of the most positive, determined young women I know. She is very focused but also light-hearted. I think that’s what she is so successful, because she doesn’t let stuff get in her head. We’ll see her come forward this year.”

Junior Kelly Liebl also returns as an experienced veteran in the long sprints and owns back-to-back Atlantic 10 scoring performances in the 400m.

“Kelly is consistent,” said O’Reilly. “And we expect to see her grow and continue to move forward.”

Seniors Alex Edger, Rose O’Brien, and Steph Toland and sophomores Tamar Bourdeau, Karley Hess, Monica Higgins, and Sophia Recchilungo will round out the returning long sprints group while freshmen Alicia Forrest and Morgan Patten will also compete for the Crimson and Gray this year.

The trio of middle distance captains senior Cassidy Weimer, graduate student Sydney Coughlin, and senior Caroline Keegan will lead the Hawks into the 2017-18 indoor and outdoor seasons.

Weimer enters her final track and field campaign after her most successful collegiate cross country season this past fall, where she led the Hawks in all three championship races en route to Atlantic 10 All-Conference and ECAC All-East honors.

Weimer has raced from the 800m through the mile and owns a pair of sixth-place 1500m finishes at outdoor A-10s and a fourth-place finish in the mile at indoor A-10s. Weimer also qualified for ECACs in both the mile (4:57.56 PR) and 1500m (4:31.46 PR) and, if her consistent progression and development over her collegiate career and recent successes are telling, Weimer can be looking at a well-deserved trip to Tampa this June.

“I’m really excited about Cassidy this year,” said O’Reilly. “I know our goal is to get her to the NCAA regional qualifier in the 1500m. She’ll get to the place that normally makes it through every year.”

After missing all of the 2016-17 indoor and outdoor seasons due to injury, Coughlin came back and tore up the cross country scene. In her final go-around, Coughlin, who placed fourth in the 1000m at the 2016 A-10 indoor meet and 13th in the 1000m at the 2016 ECAC indoor meet, is prepared to make her final go-around a meaningful one. “Syd is ready,” said O’Reilly. “She is back and is so excited with how she finished her cross country season. She has great goals. With her attitude, she’s right where she needs to be. She’s strong and ready to go, mentally and physically.”

Although her focus began in the 800m (2:20.79 PR), the versatile Keegan expanded into the 1000m, 1500m, and mile last year, earning a 13th-place finish in the 1500m (4:39.91 PR) at the Atlantic 10 Outdoor Championships and running 3:01.16 for 1000m and 5:16.66 for the mile during the indoor season. O’Reilly looks forward to Keegan’s potential in the mile and 1500m for the senior’s final go.

“Caroline’s workouts are going really well, and she hasn’t skipped a beat,” said O’Reilly. “If we can keep her injury-free, I think she is going to have a successful senior season.”

O’Reilly holds great expectations from sophomore Emily Bracken, who earned Atlantic 10 All-Rookie honors in the mile and raced the mile at the ECAC Indoor Championships as a rookie last winter. Bracken ran the 800m for 2:17.68. the 1000m for 2:56.94, the 1500m for 4:49.34, and the mile for 5:01.21 last year.

“Emily trains with Cassidy, and they run similar times,” said O’Reilly. “She is set up to have a strong sophomore season.”

Junior Lucy Harmon enjoyed a breakthrough cross country season, destroying her 5k (18:20.3) and 6k (21:33.1) PRs, and capped the fall with ECAC All-East honors. Harmon turned in collegiate-best times in the 800m (2:21.21), 1000m (3:07.11), 1500m (4:41.53), and mile (5:25.79) as a sophomore last year.

“Lucy is fantastic, and I’m excited for her indoor and outdoor seasons,” said O’Reilly. “She has worked really hard and has grown so much in her confidence and maturity as a runner through this whole process. She’s ready to go. I think she’s going to surprise us week after week.”

After enjoying her best cross country season yet this past fall, junior Sara Rankin will come on down from the distance group this year to utilize her speed, while senior Megan O’Dowd, juniors Elizabeth Del Rio and Julia Donahue, and sophomores Maggie Maguire, Samantha Mayers, Abigail McGann, Emily Schaeffer, and Michaela Urbach will round out SJU’s returning middle distance group.

Freshmen Cornelia Brower, Alexa Gostovich, Molly Jacobs, Kayla Martin, Maggie Moyer, Thi Nguyen, Claire Podles, and Abigail Silva enter their first track and field seasons donning the Crimson and Gray.

Sophomore Joanna DeSousa is SJU’s lone returning participant in the 3000m steeplechase. As a rookie last spring, DeSousa ran 12:23.43 at the Widener Invitational and turned in a third-place finish at the Lehigh Games and enters her second collegiate season after running a 2k steeplechase time of 7:34.11 at the Section VII State Qualifier Meet in June 2016.

Led by junior veterans Britton Gagliardi, Elaine Estes, Erin McGuire, and Lindsey Oremus, the Hawks’ distance group will include four juniors and a pair of sophomores this year. 

After two years of training under their belts between cross country and track and field, Gagliardi, Estes, and McGuire will tackle the 10,000m event this year. In just her first collegiate track and field 10k, Gagliardi ran for 38:51.88 at the Atlantic 10 Championships last spring, while Estes went for 18:53.98 in the 5k. Gagliardi and Estes are both coming off of incredibly strong cross country seasons, and O’Reilly is looking forward to what the duo can accomplish.

“Britton and Elaine are so close in training in the way they run and everything they do,” said O’Reilly. “They train really well together. They’re kind of like this dynamic duo in the distance group because they know how to train with each other and not compete with each other in their training. They’re comfortable with each other and are great training partners, and that’s going to help a lot.”

McGuire ran the 10k twice last spring, recording a season-best time of 43:11.94 to place third at the Widener Invitational.

Oremus and sophomore Meridith Twomey, who are both coming off of outstanding cross country seasons this past fall, will race the 5000m this year. Oremus went 10:12.88 for 3k and 17:37.46 for 5k last spring while Twomey ran her season-best 5k time (18:23.17) at the 2017 Atlantic 10 Outdoor Championships.

“I’m hoping for big things from Lindsey this year,” said O’Reilly. “She has big goals and I want to help her get there. Meri has matured and was very consistent in cross country this year, and she doesn’t get frazzled.”

Sophomore Rose Barrett enjoyed a versatile rookie season as she ran the mile (5:32.90), 3000m (11:12.71), and 5000m (19:18.77) last year. After setting new PRs in the 5k (20:00.6) and 6k (24:01) on the cross country trails this fall, O’Reilly believes that Barrett is on the right path to success.

“This is definitely going to be Rose’s year to break through,” said O’Reilly. “I’m excited to see what we’re going to see from Rose.”

Last season, the Hawks scored in three of their relays between the Atlantic 10 Indoor Championships and Atlantic 10 Outdoor Championships, which included a pair of medals at the outdoor meet. Of those 12 legs, half return in 2017-18, including outdoor 4x400m relay silver medalist sophomore Caroline Duffy (leadoff) and outdoor 4x800m relay bronze medalists sophomore Aliyah Stokes, Duffy, junior Kelly Liebl, and junior Nathaniela Bourdeau.

Last season, the Hawks also turned in a trio of scoring performances between the ECAC Indoor Championships and ECAC Outdoor Championships, which included a pair of medals. Of those 12 legs, 7 return in 2017-18, including indoor DMR silver medalists sophomore Emily Bracken (leadoff) and senior Cassidy Weimer (anchor) and outdoor 4x400m relay bronze medalist Duffy. 

The Hawks enjoyed a record-breaking year on the relays in 2016-17, smashing five school records between the indoor and outdoor seasons. The Hawks return their entire school-record outdoor 4x100m relay in Stokes, Duffy, Liebl, and Bourdeau. Liebl (leadoff) returns from the school-record indoor 4x400m relay (3:47.87), while Duffy (leadoff) returns from the school-record outdoor 4x400m relay (3:43.33). Bracken (leadoff) and Weimer (anchor) return from the school-record DMR (11:42.58) while Bourdeau (leadoff) and Duffy (second leg) return from the school-record SMR (3:59.00).

With the combination of veteran experience and overall talent and the addition of new faces that could immediately add to SJU’s recent relay successes, O’Reilly expects that the 2017-18 could once again be one for the record books.

Senior captain Steph Toland, an Atlantic 10 pointer scorer (1:02.28 PR) and ECAC qualifier in the 400m hurdles last spring, will lead SJU’s hurdlers this year.

“I would look to Steph to be our leader in the hurdles this year,” said O’Reilly. “I’m hoping that this will be a big year for Steph and that it will all click.”

Junior Bridget McNierney (1:03.18) and senior captain Rose O’Brien (1:04.87) have also run sub-1:05 400m hurdle times over their careers, while sophomores Tamar Bourdeau (1:06.64) and Caroline Duffy (1:06.90) also showed significant development in the hurdles last year and will round out SJU’s returning group of hurdlers.

“That’s a nice little stock pile of 400m hurdlers there,” added O’Reilly.

Freshman Alicia Forrest, a back-to-back NHS South Jersey NPB champion (2016-17) in the 400m hurdles, will enter her first year. 

Over her three years on Hawk Hill, senior high jump captain Claudine Andre has put together quite the resume. She went to the 2016 NCAA East Regional Preliminary Rounds, placing 27th and she earned back-to-back All-East honors in the high jump between the 2015 ECAC outdoor meet and the 2016 ECAC indoor meet. She is a five-time high jump silver medalist at the Atlantic 10 Championships and ties for the SJU program record in the indoor high jump with a mark of 1.73m.

Andre is a senior this year, and O’Reilly feels that this could be her best year yet.

“We want to go back to the NCAA regional qualifier,” said O’Reilly of her senior jumper. “I know she was disappointed that she didn’t make it last year, and I think that it’s a huge goal for her to go as far as she can go this season and go for that record to make it her own. This will be a good year for Claudine with setting higher goals for herself and achieving them.”

Senior long (4.97m) and triple (10.59m) jumper Aarynn Crawley also returns as a veteran leader to the jumps group while the long jump trio of junior Kelly Liebl (5.50), junior Bridget McNierney (5.29m), and sophomore Caroline Feola (4.65m) round out the returners.

Freshmen Kayla Pfleger and Tori Stembridge will add new faces to the jumps.

Freshman Morgan Bower will represent the Hawks in the javelin this year. Bower threw for  a high school-best mark of 151’ 11” at the Jim Taylor High School Classic on April 8 of last spring and placed fifth in the event at the PIAA District 4 meet. A two-sport athlete on Hawk Hill, Bower is a starting forward on the SJU women's soccer team, where she was named to the Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team this past fall.

Sophomore Emily Clayton will compete in the pentathlon, which consists of the high jump, 60m hurdles, shot put, long jump, and 800m, this indoor season and the heptathlon, which consists of the high jump, long jump, 100m hurdles, 200m, 800, shot put, and javelin, during the spring. As a rookie last year, Clayton competed in the 60m hurdles (9.64), 100m hurdles (15.88), indoor (1.50m) and outdoor (1.55m) high jump, indoor (4.44m) and outdoor (4.96m) long jump, and indoor (8.83m) and outdoor (9.00m) shot put.

“Her strength is going to be her background in gymnastics, because she can multi-event very well,” said O’Reilly. “She doesn’t flinch, she just move on and refocuses, and I think that is going to be her greatest strength. Once she gets the hang of all of the event that she has to do, I think she’s going to take off. She’ll embrace it.”

Following Saturday’s season-opening Jack Pyrah Invitational, the Hawks will return to action in the new year and will compete in five meets across four weekends in January, including the Wagner College Invitational (Jan. 5), the Lehigh Angry Birds Challenge (Jan. 13), the Penn 8-Team Select (Jan. 20), the two-day Penn State National Open (Jan. 26-27), and the Monmouth Winter Invitational (Jan. 27).

Saint Joseph’s will race a pair of meets on February 3, competing at both the Ursinus Frank Colden Invitational and Villanova Invitational before heading to the Fastrack National Qualifier (Feb. 9) the following weekend.

Four of those nine meets - the Wagner Seahawk Invitational, Penn 8 Team Select, Villanova Invitational, and Fastrack National Qualifier - will be held at the Ocean Breeze Facility in Staten Island, N.Y.

The 2018 Atlantic 10 Indoor Championships will be held at the University of Rhode Island’s Mackal Fieldhouse in Kingston, R.I. from February 16-18.

Saint Joseph’s will have one more ECAC-qualifying opportunity at the Saturday Night Fastrack Last Chance Invitational, to be held at the Ocean Breeze Facility on February 24, before qualifiers head to the 2018 ECAC Indoor Championships at Boston University’s Track and Tennis Center from March 2-4.

The 2018 NCAA Indoor Championships will run from March 8-10 at Texas A&M University’s Gilliam Indoor Stadium in College Station, Texas.

Saint Joseph’s will open the outdoor season on Saturday, March 24 at the 23rd Annual Monmouth Season Opener in West Long Branch, N.J. and will compete the following Saturday, March 31 at the Rider Meet before heading down to Williamsburg, Va. for the 53rd Annual Colonial Relays, set for April 5-7.

The Hawks will then split up over the course of the next six meets, racing both the Temple Owls Invitational (Apr. 13) and Rider Invitational (Apr. 14) and both the Princeton Larry Ellis Invitational (Apr. 20-21) and Widener Invitational (Apr. 20-21) before heading to Penn Relays (Apr. 26-28) and Lehigh Games (Apr. 28) to cap the regular season.

The 2018 Atlantic 10 Outdoor Championships will be held at George Mason University Stadium in Fairfax, Va. from May 5-6.

Qualifiers will then compete at the ECAC Championships at Princeton University’s Weaver Stadium from May 12-13.

The NCAA East Preliminary Rounds will be hosted by the University of South Florida in Tampa, Fla. From May 24-26.

The NCAA Outdoor Championships will take place from June 6-9 at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field.