PHILADELPHIA – The Saint Joseph’s women’s cross country squad is set to race the 2019 Atlantic 10 Cross Country Championship this Saturday, November 2. Hosted by George Mason University at the Oatlands Plantation in Leesburg, Va., the 5k race is set for 10:50 a.m. The Hawks, who finished 10th a year ago, were predicted to place 10th this fall according to the A-10’s preseason poll, with voting conducted by the league’s 14 head coaches back in late August.
The Oatlands Plantation enters its second season as host site of the A-10 Cross Country Championship after serving as the 2017 course. The Hawks raced the course on September 13 of this season as part of the George Mason Invitational and placed fifth overall, just four points shy of George Mason. Graduate student Elaine Estes finished second in a field of 73 racers, just 3.6 seconds behind race champion Suzanne Dannheim of George Washington, with a 5k time of 18:21.6. Her 5k PR stands at 18:19.3.
The 10 Hawks selected to represent SJU at the 2019 A-10 Cross Country Championship are Estes, seniors Emily Bracken (captain), Samantha Mayers, Abigail McGann, Emily Schaeffer, and Meridith Twomey (captain), juniors Alexa Gostovich, Morgan Patten, and Abigail Silva, and freshman Olivia Wojtowicz. Estes, Schaeffer, and Bracken return as scorers from last year's meet, finishing as SJU's #2, #4, and #5 runners, respectively.
Estes has led the Hawks in all five of her races this season, which included a pair of individual titles early on at the Monmouth Invitational and the Delaware Invitational. Getting stronger every week, Estes is coming off of back-to-back, sub-22:00 6k performances entering Saturday morning's race. She finished as SJU's #2 runner for the past two conference meets, placing 35th in 2018 and 40th in 2017, the latter performance coming in Leesburg.
"I expect great things out of Elaine," said fifth-year head coach Melody O'Reilly on Wednesday. "She's excited. She's had a great season of training, and she's really mapped it into her life which has been very different with the student teaching. But she's learned how to make it work, and she's found her rhythm with all of that. I really do think she's going to show up great this weekend."
Alongside Estes, Bracken is SJU's second Hawk to enter her fourth Atlantic 10 race. Bracken covered the course in 19:59.2 at the GMU Invitational and owns a 5k PR of 18:35.6. The senior captain scored at last year's race as SJU's #5 runner (61st).
Schaeffer and Twomey will bring veteran experience in their third A-10 races; Schaeffer scored at last year's race as SJU's #4 runner (46th) and Twomey scored in 2016 as SJU's #4 runner (66th) in her rookie season.
Silva enters her second A-10 race while Mayers, McGann, Gostovich, Patten, and Wotjowicz will make their A-10 debuts.
"Everybody is going to be fine," added O'Reilly. "We are ready and good to go."
The Hawks turned in their last top-five A-10 finish in 2011 (5th), while SJU’s last A-10 title came in 2000. The All-Conference team consists of the top 15 finishers, while the Most Outstanding Rookie Performer award is given to the highest-placing freshman.