Aug 29, 2013
QUEENS, N.Y. - A homecoming of sorts will highlight the Red Storm women's cross country team's return to competition on Sat., Sept. 7 as head coach Jim Hurt's squad will make the short trip to St. John's University's Oakdale, N.Y., campus to co-host the SJU-Hofstra Fall XC Festival.
Kicking off the four-race festival will be the Long Island USA Track & Field Grand Prix 5K at 9 a.m., followed by an alumni one mile fun run & walk at 9:30 a.m. The Red Storm will then take center stage in the collegiate women's 4K at 10:30 a.m., followed by the collegiate men's 5K at 11 a.m. St. John's will line up against the teams from Adelphi, Hofstra, Manhattan, Molloy, Seton Hall and St. Joseph's.
St. John's alumni and parents are encouraged to stay after the races for a luncheon with the Red Storm.
"Hofstra Coach Pete Alfano ran for us in the late 1990s, so we are very pleased to be co-hosting the meet with the Pride while returning to the Oakdale campus," said Hurt. "The grounds surrounding the mansion on the Great South Bay at the Oakdale Campus are quite special and offer an exceptional competition venue for runners and spectators alike. We feel the meet will be a great way to kick-off the 2013 cross country season and we encourage all alumni, parents, and cross country fans to come out to the Oakdale campus and be part of this special event."
The Red Storm has not competed in Oakdale since 2005. In 2012, St. John's opened its campaign with a winning effort at the Hofstra-Brick Stone Memorial Run, placing its top-five finishers in the top-15 overall to edge fellow BIG EAST competitor Seton Hall by one point.
The past week has seen the Red Storm participate in its annual cross country camp, highlighted by a training run on the Oakdale course and team trips to Jones Beach, famed Van Cortlandt Park and Connetquot State Park.
Hurt begins his 32nd season with St. John's and his 25th as head coach. He leads a young group of runners that return seven letterwinners from a squad that placed seventh at last year's Metropolitan Championships. Graduate student Michelle Duffy
returns to captain a unit that includes a talented group of eight sophomores and one senior newcomer.
Duffy, who will be counted on to provide leadership and experience to Hurt's group, was St. John's fourth runner at the BIG EAST Championships last year in setting a personal-best 6K time.
"Our team is very young with only grad-student Michelle Duffy returning with more than one year of college cross country experience," said Hurt. "Michelle has battled back from a near career-ending injury and is poised for her best cross country season of her career. Fortunately, we can also depend on our sophomore class which has the exceptional potential to be highly competitive in their second seasons."
Leading the way for the Red Storm's sophomore core is Kerri Butler, who placed second for the Red Storm in all three championship races in her first season as St. John's, including finishing 36th overall at the ECAC Championships in a personal-best 5K time. Classmates Stephanie Van Pelt and Ashlin Conroy also figure to be key contributors after featuring in the team's top-5 on a number of occasions last season.
Fellow sophomores Veronica Thompson and Michelle Van Pelt, and cross country newcomer senior Mykaila Dudley, will add depth to Hurt's roster, while sophomores Tiffany Evanego, Jasmine Gomez and Pariis Garcia will make the step up after competing on the Red Storm's modified team last fall.
"Kerri Butler and Stephanie Van Pelt should join Michelle to give us a powerful 1-2-3 punch that can place in the upper levels of any meet on our schedule," said Hurt. "Ashlin Conroy, Michelle Van Pelt, and Veronica Thompson all will challenge to break into our top five to make us a formable team to deal with. Pariis Garcia, Tiffany Evenego, and Jasmine Gomez complete the `great eight' sophomore class and along with senior Mykaila Dudley will provide some depth to our attack."
One announcement which promises to pay major dividends for the future of St. John's cross country was made during camp week as Hurt and senior Chelsea Trant have decided that Trant will redshirt the upcoming season as she continues to recover from a broken foot. Trant finished as the Red Storm's top runner at four meets last year, including the NCAA Northeast Regional and ECAC Championships, where she secured All-East honors after placing 22nd overall. Trant is expected to make a full recovery by next year's cross country season as Hurt will pair her with what promises to be a formidable junior class in St. John's quest for Metropolitan and BIG EAST honors.
"Being a Pharmacy major, which requires six years to earn a degree, we plan to not run senior Chelsea Trant this year in cross country but anticipate to have her back next year when we will have a highly competitive veteran team," said Hurt.
For updates and results from St. John's cross country's season-opener and to keep up to date on all team news, follow on Twitter @StJohnsXCTF and by using the hashtag #stjohnsxc. To be added to the St. John's women's cross country fans e-mail list send a message to Edouard.firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject: "St. John's women's XC e-mail."