The St. Joseph’s women’s cross-country team is off to a hot start three meets into its season after placing third in the Fordham Fiasco and second in the Moravian Invitational.

This is the team’s best start since 2019, when it followed a similar path, placing first and second in two of their first three meets. With a shortened season in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, when races were canceled or postponed until the spring, the team is looking to get back on track.

Coach Melody O’Reilly said the shortened 2020 season was a time for the team to reset.

“Having the two meets pushed to the spring was really odd, [but] it allowed our program to sit back and learn to train together, work together, and be more positive and strong,” O’Reilly said.

One of the reasons for the team’s success has been the core of young runners, with more than half of the team being freshmen and sophomores.

O’Reilly said the younger members of the team are making a difference in what they are trying to achieve this season.

“Their vibe is positive. The freshmen and sophomores have a lot of grit, and that’s exactly what we recruited because it’s what we needed,” she said.

Sophomore Madison Buddenbohn, who placed 15th overall with a time of 20 minutes, 31 seconds at the Fordham Fiasco on Sept. 11, said that she is happy with the team’s good start.

“I really like the energy that we have this year,” she said. “The team has a positive energy. Everyone shows up ready to work hard and ready to get after it.”

The team has also maintained energy in the face of adversity, with a slightly disappointing result in the Paul Short Run on Oct. 1 in Bethlehem, Pa.

“I specifically put them in the brown race at Paul Short, so that they could be more competitive as young as they are, and inexperienced,” O’Reilly said. “I wanted them to be more competitive. I thought we could get the top 20 [and] we were 21st, but we were missing one of our top three.”

O’Reilly also said that the new, positive vibe is something that the team has not seen in a while.

“I’ve had a few of them say to me individually that it’s different. I don’t know exactly what it is, but it’s a good sign,” she said. “I can feel their support for each other every time we go out to work out.”

The upperclassmen haven’t been hiding, either, with junior Sarah Myers counted on as the team’s leading finisher. Myers placed seventh with a time of 20:05.4 at the Fordham Fiasco and third with a time of 23:50.1 at the Moravian Invitational on Sept. 17 in Bethlehem.

Myers said she’s excited with the start to the season and is looking forward to seeing how the team will progress.

“I’m very happy for our team and I think we’re doing well,” she said. “We have a young team and there’s a lot of potential.”

O’Reilly said that captain Shannon Addario, a senior, has been a positive force for the young team.

“She’s level-headed, she’s sharp, and she keeps her finger on the pulse of what’s going on,” the coach said. “I think that’s a driving force behind the scenes that I don’t always get to see every day.”

Addario amplified the same sentiments as O’Reilly, pointing out that the younger members of the team have contributed to the dynamic atmosphere.

“They’re such a great cohesive unit that only positively reinforces everyone else’s behaviors,” Addario said. “Everyone’s just really eager to do something good, something positive because everything’s still so uncertain. Every opportunity is a great opportunity, so why not make it something important.”

With the 2020 shortened season, Addario is hopeful that the team can continue their success for her final season.

“Nothing is promised this season. We discussed a lot of really big team goals this year and we want to [do well at] the Atlantic 10 this year,” Addario said of the conference championship Oct. 30 in Cedarville, Ohio. “Going through practice with my teammates and coach by our side, we have our tunnel and focus view and I think we can do something big at the Atlantic 10 this year.”