By Jean DePlacido
It is highly unusual for three college track captains to hail from the North Shore, but that's the situation at Holy Cross next season. Leading the Crusader women will be three outstanding seniors, Lexie Culkeen of Beverly/Bishop Fenwick, Katelyn Hartnett of Danvers and Paige Sutherland, who ran for Pentucket Regional High School and also spends a lot of time at her mother's home in Peabody. They are three of the five coaches who will lead the indoor and outdoor teams.
"I've known Lexie since I was very little and kept in touch with her all through high school," said Hartnett, who is an outstanding middle distance runner. "We always saw each other at the big meets and then wound up going to the same college and are teammates. I didn't know Paige until college, but now we are all good friends. It's funny that we will all be captains this year, because we all live so close to each other, and we all do different events."
Culkeen, who competes in the shot put and 20-pound weight indoors and the shot, discus and hammer in outdoor track, and Hartnett will serve as captains for both the indoor and outdoor track seasons while Sutherland will also captain the cross country squad. Culkeen was named Most Valuable Field Athlete, while Hartnett received Most Valuable Runner at the annual season-ending banquet.
"We have good captains and a lot of leadership," said Sutherland, who worked at Sylvan Street Grille and is currently doing an internship in Boston for CBS radio. "When you run all three seasons, you never get much time off; you just go from one season right into the next. I'm already training for cross country."
Sutherland, who made the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll (3.20 GPA) as a junior, is a philosophy major. For the past two years, she has been an All Patriot League First Team selection, and the Crusaders' top finisher in all seven races. Last fall, she was named Patriot Runner of the Week in October after finishing 20th at the New England Championship. Indoors, she competes in the 1,500, mile, 3,000, 5,000 and 10,000.
"I want to get into communications, but we don't have that major at Holy Cross, so I picked philosophy," Sutherland said. "It was either that or English, and I love my intern's job because there's a lot of reporting involved and going out to get stories."
Culkeen said shot put is her favorite event because she's being doing it the longest. She excelled all through high school and has continued throwing the shot all through college. Culkeen was named Crusader of the Week in May after helping lead her team to a sixth-place finish at the New England Championships with a sixth-place finish in the shot (12.83 for a personal best) and 13th in the discus.
"That's also the most difficult event to improve on so it gets a bit frustrating at times," said Culkeen, who is majoring in psychology and premed with plans to go to grad school. "I also like the discus because it all depends on your technique. It's difficult to throw a lot during the summer, but we have a workout schedule to follow. I'd much rather be doing it with my teammates pushing me, but right now I'm on my own at the Beverly Y."
Hartnett also had an outstanding year, breaking two of her own school records. At the Patriot League championship, Hartnett was second in the 800, shattering her old mark of 2:11.28 that she had set earlier this year, with a time of 2:09.33.
She was named to the All Patriot League First Team. She anchored the 4x800 relay team that finished first in 8:58.41 and qualified for the ECACs. Hartnett also broke her own 1,000 mark at the indoor New England championship with a time of 2:51.50 to take third. She was named to the Academic All Patriot League team.
"I had a real good season, and I seem to be getting faster in both the 10K and 1,000," said Hartnett, who is an accounting major. "I am already looking forward to next season, and I'm shooting for an under 2:09 time in the 800. My 2:09.33 was just over the 2:09.13 qualifying time for the NCAA regional, so it's doable.
"My favorite event is the 800. Indoors, I run the 1,000 and 800, but I think my strongest is the 800. I was also very happy to finally break the five-minute mile this year. I'm keeping busy with training on my own while doing a summer internship for an accounting firm in Boston."
Hartnett's team goal is to have the Crusaders finish in the top three in the Patriot League next year, and she is excited about leading the younger women.
"We've hovered around fourth or fifth, and it would be really nice to crack the top three," she said. "We graduated a small group of seniors, but we have a ton of freshmen coming in. The captains sent out team emails to welcome them, and we're all pretty excited about getting to know them."
Culkeen is also looking forward to the Crusaders being stronger. She has a lot of faith in coach Egetta Alfonso. The team will meet in September and start practicing.
"Our head coach is very good at recruiting, and although we don't know yet how the new people who will make the transition, it is going to be fun to see. We lost some seniors, who will be difficult to replace, but as captain, we will try to help bring the newcomers along."
Sutherland is hoping for some pleasant surprises, especially for cross country.
"We have to come back in shape and ready to go," she said. "There is always a surprise in the freshman class, and we're hoping for somebody to come along quickly. It's funny because last year we had some people who were supposed to be right up there, but instead we had two walk-ons who turned out to be the best newcomers. You never know until the races start."