By Anna Poulter-Hendrickson
Special to GoHolyCross.com
Holy Cross women's track and field head coach Egetta Alfonso returns 38 from a year ago and welcomes 27 newcomers to the team, as the Crusaders look to continue their success from a year ago in the Patriot League and around New England. Holy Cross kicks off the 2010-2011 indoor season at the Rhode Island Pentathlon and Alden Invitational on Friday-Saturday, Dec. 3-4. The team will compete at the Harvard Open on Dec. 11 before breaking for Holy Cross' winter vacation.
Despite returning 38 from last year's squad that finished fourth at both the indoor and outdoor Patriot League Championships, the Crusaders lost key members of the team to graduation. "We lost so many people last year, so I am looking for the older kids to step it up and fill that void," remarked Alfonso. "We have people on the team that are very capable of doing that. If they do, we go into the Patriot League Championship and New England Championship on the same page if not better than last year because of the depth that has been added to the program."
Alfonso will look to senior captains Allison Fimognari, Courtney Burgess, Cassandra Anderson and M. Siobhan Straub to lead the team to success on and off the track. "The captains have already done a really great job of organizing all of the extra things we do as a team," said Alfonso. "They organized lift and all of the volunteer work we do and they will help out in other ways over the course of the season so that we stay active in the community." This year's captains are also important leaders on the track. "They have been very vocal and active at practice getting the team moving and leading by example." Alfonso has seen all four improve with the success of the program. "All of the captains have improved with the program. They have shown initiative and drive to become the best runners that they can be."
With the loss of top sprinter Tiffany Reid, Alfonso will look to the returning sprinters to lead on the straightaway. Straub returns to the track after finishing fifth in the 100 and sixth in the 200 at the Patriot League Outdoor Championship last spring. "She is an excellent 200 runner and just missed scoring during the indoor season," said Alfonso. "But outdoor she put on a good show, placing in the 100 and 200. We are all going to be looking for her to place in the indoor season."
Alfonso also expects sophomore Melanie Forte to be a top sprinter for the Crusaders after finishing sixth in the 60 meter dash at the Patriot League Indoor Championship as a freshman. "A freshman stepping in under a high pressure situation and getting it done is very impressive," remarked Alfonso. Forte, along with senior Caitlin White and Straub, was also a member of the first place 4x100 meter relay team at the Patriot League Outdoor Championship, giving her valuable championship experience.
The Crusaders will rely on depth in the sprint events to continue the team's success on the straightaway. Alfonso has been impressed with the work that the newcomers have put in on the track so far this season. "Kylene Carey and Stephanie Okpoebo have been impressive during the preseason," commented Alfonso.
Holy Cross will look to the experience of Anderson and sophomore Brittany Gorski along with the talent of newcomers to lead the team in the long sprint events. Alfonso expects the experience that was gained from the high level of competition a year ago to lead the team on the track. "Brittany Gorski had a breakthrough during outdoor in the 400 meter hurdles and that will translate into a much better indoor season," commented Alfonso.
Alfonso is excited to see newcomer Catherine Cafaro compete for the Crusaders. Cafaro's mother, Bridget (Ireland) Cafaro, holds the school record in the 600 meter run for the Crusaders and also was a member of the women's basketball team. "Catherine Cafaro enters the season with great high school stats," commented Alfonso. And Alfonso is hoping to see those stats translate from high school to the college level.
Holy Cross 800 meter school record holder, junior Katelyn Hartnett, returns to lead the team in the mid distance events. Last season, Hartnett recorded team best times in the 800 and 1,000, including setting a new school record in the 800 at the Patriot League Outdoor Championship. "Katelyn is looking tremendous, she is already ahead of where she was last year," said Alfonso. Alfonso doesn't expect the season to be easy for Hartnett, as there will be some tough competition in the league this season. "Katelyn is going to be dealing with some very tough competition during the indoor season, especially at Patriots and she is looking to put some personal records up and see if she can get a win."
Training alongside Hartnett this season is Anderson and sophomore Kathleen Brekka, whom Alfonso expects to have great seasons. "Cassandra stepped up to mid distance last year and did very well," commented Alfonso. "She struggled a bit in the beginning, but by the end of the season she looked amazing." Alfonso expects to see the same type of success out of Brekka. "Kathleen Brekka moved up towards the end of the outdoor season and she has already done a couple timed miles that look really good." Alfonso warns that Brekka is someone to look out for this season.
Anderson, Burgess and Hartnett return to anchor Holy Cross' 4x800 meter relay team that qualified for the ECAC Outdoor Championship last season. Burgess has been fighting through injury, but Alfonso expects her to be an instrumental part of the relay team's success.
Junior Paige Sutherland looks to carry over her success on the cross country course to the track. A year ago, Sutherland recorded team best times in the 1,500, one mile, 3,000, 5,000 and 10,000, including a second place finish in the 5,000 at the Patriot League Championship. "Paige is dealing with some tough competition in the Patriot League this year," commented Alfonso. Colgate's Elise DeRoo continues to challenge Sutherland on the track and the cross country course. At the Patriot League Outdoor Championship, DeRoo claimed first in the 5,000 and then won the 2010 Patriot League Cross Country Championship.
The transition from the cross country course to the indoor track can be challenging for the distance runners and most won't begin competing until mid-January. Alfonso admits that the transition can be tough, "The transition can be a little tough to start with, but usually by a couple weeks into the season the distance runners are into their events again." As the cross country season has just wrapped up, Alfonso is excited to see what the distance runners can do on the track. "I am curious to see what Emily Hughes does this year and we are always looking for something from Sarah Mellea, Jacqueline Imse and Elizabeth Humphries."
The distance team has always been strong for the Crusaders and the depth of the squad is evident. Alfonso returns 11 distance runners from last year's squad and welcomes nine newcomers. Freshman Emily Hughes and Sandra van den Heuvel emerged as top performers for the Crusaders this fall and Alfonso hopes to see them transition that success to the track.
Junior Erin Linnehan recorded a season-best time in the 100 hurdles at the Duke Invitational and then followed up with a third place finish at the Patriot League Outdoor Championship and Alfonso is looking for her to continue that success in her third season. "Erin is looking to regain her place in the Patriot League and be in the top three, if not the top one," said Alfonso. Newcomer Carey will also have an impact in the hurdle events for the Crusaders. "Kylene Carey is just one step behind Erin at practice. That is great for a freshman coming in and competing against a junior."
Senior Ashley Buckley will compete in the multi events for the Crusaders. Buckley recorded a team-best score in the heptathlon at the Patriot League Outdoor Championship and competed in the pentathlon at the New England Indoor Championship.
Alfonso is looking for junior Alexandria Culkeen to break into scoring in the weight throw at the Patriot League Indoor Championship and score again in the shot put. Last season Culkeen led the Crusaders, placing fourth in the shot put at the Patriot League Indoor Championship and taking 15th in the weight throw at the New England Indoor Championship. Alfonso also expects junior Cassie Canastra and sophomore Kelsey Germain to see continued improvement in the weight throw. "
Straub returns and the top long jumper from a year ago and Carey will make an immediate impact in the long jump. Sophomore Sarah Meinelt looks to return from injury to lead the Crusaders in the jumps. "If we can keep her healthy, she is going to jump really well for us," said Alfonso. Freshman Liann Devereux will also make an immediate impact for Holy Cross in the jump events.
The Crusaders will continue competition after winter break when they host the Holy Cross Field Events Competition on Jan. 5 in the Holy Cross Field House. Holy Cross will travel to the Crowell Open on Jan. 8, the Sorlien Memorial Invitational on Jan. 14 and then split its time between the Harvard Invitational and Yale Invitational on Jan. 15. The Crusaders close out the month of January with a dual meet at New Hampshire (Jan. 22) and the Boston Indoor Games (Jan. 28).
The Crusaders start February with a dual meet at Maine (Feb. 5), followed by the Valentine Invitational (Feb. 11-12) and the Patriot League Championship (Feb. 18-20). The month ends at the New England Indoor Championship (Feb. 25-26). Qualifying members of the two teams will compete at the IC4A/ECAC Championship on March 5-6 in Boston, Mass.