by Tom Utescher

Mount St. Joseph cross country runners are heading into the 2012 campaign looking to improve over third-place finishes at the Catholic Academies championships in 2010 and 2011, and the Magic may well have the personnel to achieve that goal.

The senior co-captains for the Mount this fall are seniors Meredith Reiche and Kathryn Hoffman. Reiche was first for the Mount and fifth overall at last year’s AACA meet, but a pulled hamstring put Hoffman out of action for the championship race.

Patricia Hoffman, Kathryn’s twin sister, was one of the MSJ scorers at the league meet, coming in 30th overall.

As a freshman last season, Haasiyna Taylor won every dual meet she ran for the Mount and also finished first in her division at the expansive Paul Short Invitational at Lehigh University, but she was hampered by asthma at the Catholic Academies championships, finishing in eighth place.

Of the seven official entries at the 2011 championships, the Magic has lost only one to graduation. Then senior Danielle Leporace was the third MSJ runner across the line, placing 14th overall. Taylor’s ninth-grade classmate, Georgia Kelly, came in 25th overall, and the other members of the Mount contingent in the varsity race were current senior Adrienne Cellucci and junior Alyssa Kist.

In addition to those mentioned, the strong group of seniors for 2012 includes Marianne Lipovsky, Brittany Robbins, Lucia Sanchez, Angela Sanders, and Lauren Seminack. Fellow upperclassman Meg Geatens is primarily a basketball player who runs to stay in shape for the hoops season, and Jessica Malone is a senior who used to play on the Mount’s golf team. Senior Rachel Heller (a Norwood Fontbonne Academy grad) is a rower who has had to take some time off from that sport due to a medical ailment, but she’ll be back on the water in the spring.

Mount St. Joe is also looking to get a boost from a number of emerging talents such as junior Annie McCabe, who was an easy winner in the JV race at the AACA meet last season.

Second-year MSJ head coach Kitty McClernand has her eye on a group of six freshmen, including Julianna Kardish, the younger sister of former Mount cross country and track runner McKenna Kardish (’11).

Along with assistant coach and former MSJ runner Megan Badolato, McClernand has the Magic opening the season on August 31 at Archbishop Wood’s annual John Sharp Viking Invitational. From there the Magic will move on to the Briarwood Invitational on Belmont Plateau, and will return to the Paul Short event, as well. The team to beat in Catholic Academies competition will once again be defending champ St. Basil, who has last year’s AACA meet winner, Megan McGarrity, coming back for her senior season.