PHILADELPHIA – The Saint Joseph's women's cross country squad opens the 2019 campaign this Saturday, September 7 at the Monmouth Kick-Off Invitational at Thompson Park in Lincroft, N.J. Monmouth will host a SR./JR. race and a SO./FR. race, with start time set for 9:15 a.m.

Saint Joseph's returns 21 letterwinners from a season ago, led by graduate student Elaine Estes. Fifth-year head coach Melody O'Reilly has selected seniors Emily Bracken and Meridith Twomey to captain the Hawks this fall, with Estes serving as an additional leadership option having captained the squad last fall. 

"Emily and Meri bring a peaceful demeanor to the team," began O'Reilly. "Emily has come into her own and has a voice now. She's very confident in what she wants to do and brings great ideas to the table. Meri is doing the same and brings excellent organizational skills. They're a good combination and they work well together and very well with Elaine, who is a great sounding board for them."

O'Reilly shared more of her thoughts on the upcoming season with SJUHawks.com.

What are your expectations for the squad this season?
To do better than we did last year. We had a great training season and a really good regular season last year, except for the Atlantic 10 meet. Things progressed really well and people did what they were supposed to do. We had a few weak legs and links in there but I think those people have worked really hard over the summer to improve what was lacking, whether it be mental or physical. This year, people are more on target. I have really positive vibes. The workouts I've seen so far are really good. They obviously trained over the summer, but they're not too fit... They're just right for doing the training and not suffering. Everybody is where they should be, and I have a really nice group. Last year I had five and then we were searching for the 6-7. This year, the top threshold group was 8-9 deep. We are packing together well and that's what's going to make a difference. The wheels can't fall off.

What meets are you looking forward to in the early season?
I do like the Monmouth Kick-Off Invitational (9/7); it's a 4k so it takes the pressure off and they run really well. When we get on the 5k course for the George Mason Invitational (9/13), I'm looking forward to seeing how the team responds to a different terrain. The Monmouth meet is a flat course in comparison to the [George] Mason course, which is a hilly cross country course. I always look forward to the Paul Short Run (10/5). Paul Short is always a real indicator to where we are at that time. They love the course, so they go to it with an open mind, and if you have good weather and if it hasn't been raining for week before, we get really fast time. It's a great time to go into the big stuff. They go into the meet with aggression and have some fun with it.

What are your thoughts on the returning group?
Elaine Estes has just matured into that next level. Her body and training have caught up to her work ethic. She and Morgan Camerlo are great training partners. It'll be Elaine and Morgan alongside Emily Bracken, Emily Schaeffer, Abigail Silva, Meridith Twomey, Thi Nguyen, and Olivia Wojtowicz. I also expect Rose Barrett, Abigail McGann, and Shannon Addario to come through.

What are your early impressions of the newcomers?
All of the freshmen are adjusting well to the training. I'm optimistic about Olivia Wojtowicz's ability to contribute to the team immediately.

Be sure to follow the Saint Joseph's women's cross country program on Instagram and Twitter and like the Hawks on Facebook. Fans can receive all of the latest news and info on the men's cross country program with Hawk E-News.

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