by Tom Utescher

While athletes at area institutions are enjoying their summer vacations, the athletic departments at their schools continue to keep busy filling coaching positions.

Two of the hirings that have come to light recently are Kitty McClernand’s appointment as the new cross country and track and field coach at Mount St. Joseph Academy, and the selection of John Kelly to head the softball program at Chestnut Hill College.

McClernand knows both the Mount and its runners well. She served as an assistant to longtime coach Karen Orr for a number of years, and her daughter, Katie, competed for the Magic, graduating in 2005 and moving on to run for Lehigh University.

McClernand herself was a collegiate tennis player at Penn State, where she also began to participate in road races, an activity she’s enjoyed ever since. Her husband, Jim, had more formal training as a runner in both high school and college, and will lend assistance to the Mounties as his schedule permits.

There’s no lack of interest at Mount St. Joe, with healthy numbers on the cross country roster last fall and some 70 girls participating in track and field in the 2011 season.

“We have a lot of strong athletes returning, so I think the varsity should do well this year,” McClernand said. “I know some of the girls are doing some core strength training and other conditioning over the summer, and some of distance runners have met up to do some runs together.”

Chestnut Hill College Director of Athletics Lynn Tubman came to CHC two years ago from Philadelphia University, and now she’s gotten former Philly U. softball coach John Kelly to follow her lead. Everyone at Chestnut Hill liked outgoing skipper Steve Carr, who headed the program for nine years after spending several seasons as assistant coach. However, the softball squad was having a little more trouble adapting to the step up from NCAA Division III to Division II than some other teams at the college. The new arrival, Kelly, has demonstrated his abilities as a program builder.

In six years at Philly U. he turned a team that lacked direction into one with a winning record, and the Lady Rams made their first post-season tournament appearance in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (to which CHC also belongs). Previously, he shored up the Haverford College softball franchise during seven seasons at the Main Line school, and prior to that he spent a single year at Immaculata University, but recruited five all-conference players for the Mighty Macs in that brief period.

“One of the things we were looking for was someone who has shown success at improving a program,” CHC’s Tubman said, “and John did that at several places, including a member of our own conference. Another thing I was aware of from my time at Philadelphia University was that John’s softball teams usually had the best average GPA out of all the sports there.”

One of the areas where Chestnut Hill administrators were not looking to make a change was in their soccer program, but one has been forced upon them. Seamus O’Connor, whose success as women’s head coach and overall Director of Soccer attracted attention from Division I schools, was lured away to become an assistant coach on the women’s team at Temple University. CHC is already fairly far along in the search process and should announce a replacement shortly.