By Anna Poulter-Hendrickson
Special to GoHolyCross.com
Head women's track and field coach Egetta Alfonso welcomes the indoor track and field season with optimism. Alfonso returns 34 from last year's team and welcomes 19. Last year's squad placed fourth at the Patriot League Indoor Championship and Alfonso is looking to improve on that finish. "We would like to move up, but we graduated over 20 girls last year and lost a lot of the depth on the team," said Alfonso. "But, I am pleasantly surprised by the girls that have joined us this year. They are going to bring something nice to the squad this year, we should still be shooting for fourth or higher at the Patriot League Championship." Alfonso's squad is showing signs of a top finish, "Practice looks really good," remarked Alfonso. "Yet, you never know who is going to get it done in competition."
Alfonso will look to her captains, seniors Rachel Amaral (Raynham, Mass.), Olivia Pruszko (Monroe, Conn.), Tiffany Reid (Poughkeepsie, N.Y.) and Sarah Croteau (Westminster, Mass.), to help get it done in competition. "The team has already felt the impact of their leadership," said Alfonso. "So far, they have done a great job of helping the young kids along." Pruszko, a captain in the multi-events and long sprints, is the only senior in her group of athletes. "Olivia has done a nice job of getting the freshman going in terms of how they feel about their first collegiate season," says Alfonso. "She has made them feel really comfortable throughout the workouts and shown them that they can have an impact on the team their freshman year." Reid, a sprint captain, will lead by example. "Her performances have been so outstanding; anytime you get someone like that it pushes the group to excel," remarked Alfonso. Amaral is looking to return from an injury to lead the throwers and Croteau will transition from cross country to track to lead the distance team.
Reid returns as the top Holy Cross sprinter in 2009-2010. Last season, Reid placed 10th in the 55 meter dash at the New England Indoor Championship with a school record time of 7.38, she finished third in the 200 with a time of 25.64 at the Patriot League Indoor Championship and seventh in the 60 with a time of 8.06. "I am looking for her to have an impact in the 200 during the indoor season," says Alfonso. Reid just missed placing in the 60 at the Patriot League Championship and Alfonso would like to see her make an impact in that event. "We have yet to see Reid have a really good indoor season," comments Alfonso. Reid spent the fall semester last year abroad and Holy Cross fans haven't seen her full potential on the indoor track.
Newcomer Melanie Forte (Milford, N.H.) will join Reid on the straightaway. A native of Milford, N.H., Forte had impressive high school stats and Alfonso looks for her to score in the 60 meter dash at the Patriot League Championship. Also returning for the indoor season will be sophomore Jennifer Bautista (St John's, Newfoundland), junior M. Siobhan Straub (Mattituck, N.Y.) and junior Caitlin White (Miller Place, N.Y.).
The long sprint group features new and young talent, yet is led by an experience veteran of the long sprint events. Pruszko returns to lead the Holy Cross long sprinters on the track. Last season, Pruszko placed fourth in the 400 at the Patriot League Indoor Championship with a time of 58.64, she also broke the school record in the 300 at the Alden Invitational with a time of 42.59.
"This is a new group and all is up in the air," remarks Alfonso. Holy Cross returns sophomore Jillian Crowley (Boxborough, Mass.) and welcomes rookies Kathleen Brekka (Hubbardston, Mass.), Brittany Gorski (Tewksbury, Mass.), Sarah Meinelt (Topsfield, Mass.), Bridget Straub (Mattituck, N.Y.) and Rachelle Sylvia (Westerly, R.I.). Preseason workouts are giving Alfonso a glimpse into the future of her long sprinters. "A lot of them are looking good, tremendous. They are working out at the same level as Olivia and should be competing at the same level."
Holy Cross' mid distance runners might be its most experienced group on the team. The Crusaders essentially returns its 4x800 relay team, senior Maureen Meagher (Allentown, Pa.) is looking to break the five minute mark in the mile and sophomore Katelyn Hartnett (Danvers, Mass.) has her eyes set on the 1,000 meter school record. Alfonso returns sophomore Alison Nadeau (Norfolk, Mass.) and junior Courtney Burgess (Dracut, Mass.) along with Meagher and Hartnett to the 4x800 meter relay team that placed third at the 2009 Patriot League Indoor Championship with a time of 9:05.59 and qualified for the ECAC Championship. Sophomore Cassandra Anderson (Saugus, Mass.) will make the move from long sprints to mid distance and will push the 4x800 team for a spot on the relay.
Top cross country performer sophomore Paige Sutherland (Groveland, Mass.) will take to the track for Holy Cross in the distance events. An illness held Sutherland back during the indoor season last year, but Sutherland has rebounded and been the top Holy Cross runner in six consecutive races in the 2009 season. Croteau will also look to be a top performer for Holy Cross, as last season she just missed scoring in the 5,000 at the Patriot League Indoor Championship. Junior Jacqueline Imse (Simsbury, Conn.) is coming off a strong cross country season and senior Meghan Dunne (Mendham, N.J.) made big gains this fall, both will add to the strength of the distance team. Rookie Lizzy Harkins (Latrobe, Pa.) joins the distance team after a strong freshman year on the cross country course.
Sophomore Erin Linnehan (Litchfield, N.H.) returns to lead Holy Cross in the hurdle events. Last year Linnehan just missed scoring at the Patriot League Championship and looks to improve on her seventh place finish. Pruszko will focus more on hurdles this season to add to Holy Cross' depth in those events. Last year Pruszko finished 11th in the 400 hurdles at the Patriot League Outdoor Championship and will see more action over the hurdles this year.
The reigning Patriot League pentathlon champion, Pruszko looks to defend her title this year. Pruszko won the multi-event as a freshman and then took second as a sophomore. Alfonso would like to see her add one more title to her belt. Joining Pruszko in the pentathlon will be junior Ashley Buckley (Duxbury, Mass.). Buckley has competed for Holy Cross in the jumps, hurdles and long sprint events.
Holy Cross graduated a majority of its jumpers, but welcomes a group of rookies looking to fill the void. Freshmen Meinelt, Forte and Brekka will add to Holy Cross's depth in the jumps, Meinelt in the triple jump, Forte in the long jump and Brekka in the high jump. Returners Pruszko, Linnehan and Buckley will compete for Holy Cross in the high jump. Last season Pruszko led the Crusaders, clearing a height of 1.59 meters at the Patriot League Indoor Championship.
Holy Cross will look for leadership in the throwing events from its returners. Top Patriot League performer, sophomore Alexandria Culkeen (Beverly, Mass.) will compete in the weight throw and shot put. At last year's Patriot League Indoor Championship, Culkeen placed sixth in the weight throw with a distance of 14.70 meters. Joining Culkeen in the throwing events will be Amaral and sophomore Cassie Canastra (Rochester, Mass.). Amaral is looking to get back on the scoreboard in the weight throw and Canastra will compete for the Crusaders in the weight throw and shot put. Senior Chantal Couture (Taunton, Mass.) will also add to the strength of the throwing group, competing for Holy Cross during the indoor season in the weight throw and shot put.
The Crusaders will kick off indoor competition on Dec. 4 at the Rhode Island Pentathlon before competing at the Alden Invitational on Dec. 5 and at the Harvard Open on Dec. 12. Holy Cross will race at the Boston University Mini Series over winter break (Dec. 19, Dec. 26 and Jan. 2). The Crusaders will continue competition over winter break with meets at the Metropolitan Coaches Collegiate Invitational (Jan. 8), the Yale Invitational (Jan. 9) and at New Hampshire (Jan. 16).
After returning to class on Jan. 20, Holy Cross will continue competition at the Boston Indoor Games (Jan. 29) and at the Terrier Invitational (Jan. 29-30). The team will compete at the Maine Open on Feb. 5-6 and wrap up the regular season at the Valentine Invitational on Feb. 12-13.
Holy Cross will kick off the championship portion of the schedule at the Patriot League Championship on Feb. 19-21 in West Point, N.Y. Qualifying members of the team will compete at the New England Championship on Feb. 26-27 and at the ECAC Championship on March 6-7 in Boston, Mass.