by Tom Utescher
If Mount St. Joseph wins a third straight Catholic Academies title this fall, it’s likely to be in a race that has a lot more in common with last year’s championship meet than with the 2012 event. Two years ago, the Magic scorched their AACA rivals to win by a whopping 46 points, but last season the Mount had to summon every bit of its team depth to eke out a 52-56 victory over runner-up Gwynedd Mercy.
There’s probably not going to be an overwhelming favorite this year, but Mount St. Joe has enough returning talent to be considered among the top contenders.
The Magic will be missing two of its five scorers from the 2013 AACA Championships. Alyssa Kist, who was the team’s third finisher and ninth overall, has graduated, while current senior Haasiyna Taylor, fourth among the Mounties and 13th overall, has decided not to come out for the team this fall.
Fortunately for the team and fourth-year coach Kitty McClernand, the top two finishers for the squad are back and are still only juniors. Julianna Kardish led the MSJ contingent at the 2013 league meet with a fourth-place showing overall, and classmate Jane Prior was second for the Magic and eighth in the final standings.
Also returning for the Mount are current senior Madeline Reiche, the fifth scorer for the squad at the AACA’s with 18th place overall, and her classmate Georgia Kelly, who was just one spot behind in the 19th spot.
In addition to Kist, the other member of last year’s senior class to race at Champs was Annie McCabe, who was seventh for Mount St. Joe and 21st in the field.
Kelly is co-captain of this year’s team, along with fellow senior Tara Gallagher, a middle-distance standout in track. Gallagher placed seventh in the junior varsity race at the AACA Championships last year, while current junior Abby Aita and sophomore Kelly Ward gave the Magic a one-two finish in that contest.
Among the other returning runners looking to have an impact on the varsity scoring is Kardish’s younger sister Caroline, now a sophomore. She was fourth in the JV event last year, and also in the top 10 were fellow 10th graders Julie Hoover (eighth) and Rosie Murphy (ninth).
Outside of the league, the Mounties will make their usual appearances at two major gatherings, the Briarwood Invitational and the Paul Short Run. They’ll also participate in smaller high school events such as Archbishop Wood’s Viking Invitational, and the Mill Street Run in Bristol, which is organized by the coach at Holy Ghost Prep.