BALTIMORE - Coming off what she terms "a very productive pre-season," Head Coach Amy Horst has high hopes for the Loyola University Maryland men's and women's cross country seasons.
Both teams open their schedules Saturday at the U.S. Naval Academy Golf Course in Annapolis, Maryland. The women will compete in the Salty Dog Invitational at 8:30 a.m., and the men will follow in the Navy Invitational an hour later. Click here for directions to the course.
"Our pre-season went great; without a doubt, it was the most advanced pre-season we've had," Horst said. "The athletes came in ready to work and everyone was in good shape. They displayed a championship attitude and we made a lot of strides."
In her second season as the Greyhounds' head coach of both cross country programs, Horst likes the makeup of both the women's team and the men's team. She anticipates that both teams will be improved over last year when the women finished eighth in the Patriot League while the men's team took 10th place.
"When we joined the Patriot League, we knew there would be a period of adjustment," she said. "We are now in our fourth season, and all of our athletes have been recruited to compete in the Patriot League. I don't want to try to set a place-specific goal of where we will finish in the League. Our goal is to grab as many lower places as we can.
"The Patriot League is a strong league, but we know we can compete with these other teams now."
Horst is very excited about the prospects for the Loyola women's team. In addition to a solid group of veterans, the Greyhounds have added a number of promising newcomers.
Senior Sarah Askine is Loyola's veteran leader; team captain, she has been a very steady runner during her career. Along with Cordella McGinn and Caitlyn McGuinness, she is one of three seniors on the women's roster.
Sophomores Christina Daniels and Mary Sutton will also provide the Greyhounds with experienced runners. A native of Tupelo, Miss., Daniels had an impressive freshman season and was Loyola's top runner at the Patriot League championship. Sutton also showed potential as a freshman and could contribute this season.
Freshmen newcomers Kayleigh Caggiano, and Megan Crilly bring impressive credentials to Loyola. A native of Manhasset, New York, Caggiano was the Nassau County cross country individual champion as a senior, leading Manhasset High Schoolto county and league championships last year. A member of the private school state champion cross country team at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Olney, Maryland, last season, Crilly also brings a lot of talent to the team.
"Kayleigh and Megan were really impressive during the pre-season," says Horst. "They fit in very well and they bring a very competitive attitude to our team. They expect to be successful and it's going to be enjoyable to watch them run as freshmen."
The Greyhounds will also be counting on freshmen runners Grace Jansson and Audrey O'Neill to add depth. Jansson was a top runner at Academy of the Holy Angel in New Jersey while O'Neill was a three-time All-State selection at LaSalle Academy in Rhode Island.
Coach Horst has a men's team that is made up of four seniors, two juniors, four sophomores and a freshman.
Seniors Brad Beard and Tom Porth are the Greyhounds' team leaders. One of Loyola's top runners each season, Beard also serves as president of the senior class at Loyola. The Greyhounds' team captain, Porth has also done well at Loyola. A natural team leader, he is a hard worker and a very good student.
Seniors Jonathan Mugavero and Zachary Nerenberg will also provide experience and depth. Junior Alex Saffadi may be the Hounds' best runner. He is Loyola's top returning finisher from the Patriot League Championship last year and was the Greyhounds' Most Valuable Performer.
Sam Williams is the team's lone freshman and Horst feels he could have a strong career at Loyola. He had a very productive career at West Windsor Plainsboro South High School in New Jersey.
Regardless of how the teams perform on the cross country courses this season, there is one guarantee about Loyola cross country -- the student athletes will excel academically.
"As much as athletic success, we recruit for academic success," said Horst, who also has been Loyola's women's track and field coach since 2010. "We have academic goals and we expect everyone to do their best in the classroom."
The coach is very proud that her women's cross country team has a cumulative G.P.A. over 3.50 while the men's team has improved to the point where the men has a G.P.A. above 3.10.
"Academics are an emphasis for us," she said. "The characteristics that make a student-athlete successful in the classroom carry over to athletics. It takes discipline and organization to be successful in both areas. We have a saying that applies in both areas -- We need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable."