by Tom Utescher
A large influx of fresh talent can change a team’s outlook very quickly, as host Mount St. Joseph Academy discovered at last Tuesday’s Athletic Association of Catholic Academies Cross Country meet.
Villa Joseph Marie arrived from Bucks County with a precocious freshman class that accounted for six of the team’s top seven runners.
The Jems won handily, 21-37, upping their record in league dual meets to 6-0, while the MSJ Magic, previously unbeaten in AACA meets, slipped to 4-1. In the final week before the league championships, the Mount has a tri-meet with Gwynedd Mercy and Merion Mercy left on the schedule, while Villa Joe finishes up with Nazareth Academy.
Mount St. Joe had won the league championship meet in 2012 and 2013. The Magic were a close second to Gwynedd Mercy in last year’s race, where Villa Joseph Marie placed sixth out of seven teams. The individual winner (in 18 minutes, 34 seconds) was freshman Emma Seifried from Sacred Heart, which did not field a full team at the event.
At Villa Joe, this year’s ninth-graders have changed everything. A few of them, like number one Katie Irelan, hail from Newtown, right in the school’s back yard. Others come from a little farther away, but they’d all participated in CYO meets together as grade-schoolers.
Mount St. Joseph’s home course heads downhill right from the starting line, and as runners in the pack vied for position at the outset, one of them tripped on the slope and fell. It was a Jems freshman, number three Caroline Brandt, who was not seriously injured, but was unable to continue in the race.
Still, as Villa Joe had runners take first and second place and then put its other three scorers among the top seven, it was quickly clear that the Jens had the meet victory well in hand.
Opening up a wide lead almost immediately and never receiving a challenge after that, Irelan won in 20 minutes, 11.073 seconds, a good showing on a warm day on the Mount’s fairly difficult course. Her classmate Brianna Kling came in second in 20:50, and the first finisher for the home side was sophomore Mollie Mullen, third overall 21:22. MSJ senior Julianna Kardish closed in on her teammate at the end of the race to come in just one second behind, taking fourth place.
Viila Joe then put the meet win away by sending a string of four girls across the line. Completing the scoring for the winners were three more freshmen, Camila Drobic (fifth; 21:31), Annie Whalen (sixth; 22:17), and Abby Zwall (seventh; 22:18). The Jems’ sixth runner, sophomore Brigid Conmy, was eighth overall in 22:23.
Third across the line for Mount St. Joseph was freshman Megan Ciasullo, who was ninth with a time of 22:38 and who headed a parade of six straight Magic runners. Rounding out the Mount’s team total were juniors Tess Worthington (10th; 22:44) and Kelly Ward (11th; 22:57), and after them came a trio of 10th-graders, Jade Killion (12th; 23:13), Jen DeGroat (13th; 23:22), and Julia Flynn (14th; 23:27).
MSJ coach Kitty McClernard said that DeGroat is usually higher up in the Mount order, but, was not 100 percent healthy last Tuesday.
Villa Joe’s seventh finisher, junior Navya Kotha, landed in 15th place in 24:03. The other Mount St. Joe runners in the top 20 were seniors Abby Aita (16th; 24:09) and Grace McCullough (17th; 24:11), junior Caroline Kardish (18th; 24:22), and senior Jane Prior (19th; 24:32).