MORAGA, Calif. - With the addition of NCAA Division I sponsored men's and women's track programs, the Saint Mary's Gaels look to begin a tradition of excellence on the track. The spring of 2012 marks the first season Saint Mary's College will officially sponsor men's and women's track and, therefore, begin writing a new record book.
On the men's side, head coach Marty Kinsey and associate head coach Mark Carberry added nine newcomers at the beginning of the school year to help propel the cross country team to a seventh place finish in the West Coast Conference Championships, the school's best finish in four years. Redshirt sophomore Rajpaul Pannu set multiple cross country school records including the 4 mile and 10K distances. Freshman Nick Ellingson set a new freshman record for 8K and junior Jordan Lerma posted an impressive 8K personal best for eighth on the all-time SMC list.
Though the Gaels will be without outgoing senior Mark Blucher and freshman Zach Newsom, who has departed for his mission in Japan, the team did add three transfers. Freshman Andrew Eckberg (San Diego, Calif./Marquette), sophomore Trevor Araujo (Alameda, Calif./Merritt), and junior Ryan Troxel (Lafayette, Calif./Cal Poly/DVC) will add depth to the men's middle and long distance squads.
Redshirt junior captain James Hayes will be looked upon to lead a young team on the track in his first full track season. Hayes missed the majority of last spring with an injury after running 9:07.82 for 3K at Washington. Lerma made steady progress over last spring and fall and will be shooting to break Mario Mendoza's 1500m school record of 4:00.23 set in 2009. Pannu will also look to improve upon his personal-bests while running for DVC last spring. He has run 4:01 1500m, 15:26 5K, and 32:16 10K.
Meanwhile, sophomore Chris Garcia and current freshmen Cormac McCullaugh, Rhett Baynes, TJ Brown-Pinizzotto, Marc Klunk, and Justin Jayme will compete in both the 1500m and 5K while freshman Gilbert Mundo will be an 800m/1500m specialist.
On the women's side, the departure of two top-5 runners hurt the Gaels' chances to climb the WCC ladder in the fall. However, the newest addition to the squad, freshman Cristina Garcia, set new freshman school records in both 5K (10th all-time) and 6K (fifth all-time) distances.
A core of solid middle distance athletes should help highlight some great track performances in the spring. Junior Maria Ahlqvist (4:46.54) and sophomore Alicia Doohan (4:49.85) are primed to go under their 1500m personal-record's set at 2011's San Francisco State's Johnny Mathis Invitational. Both they and sophomore Maureen May (2:22.03 for 800m) are shooting to take down the current school record of 4:43.76 set last spring.
Training alongside them are steeplechase school record holder, junior Erin Burke, and junior Elizandra Obando. Burke is shooting for the school's first sub-12 minute performance in the 3K steeple distance as well as her first sub-19 minute 5K. Obando missed last spring with an injury and has trained hard to put herself in a position to set new personal-bests. Also, junior Jackie Danens, sophomore Alex Choy, freshman Madison Thompson, and sophomore Emma Kroloff will be competing for the Gaels ranging from 1500m to 5K.