It wasn’t the most ideal situation for former Wyoming Area cross country star Sara Radzwilka. She chose Saint Joseph’s University because of the Hawks then-cross country coach Kevin Quinn.
In her senior year at Saint Joseph’s, however, Radzwilka dealt with adjusting to a new coach. And her senior captaincy has helped the NCAA Division 1 Hawks to a successful season heading into the Atlantic 10 championships.
A 2012 graduate of Wyoming Area, Radzwilka was named team captain, along with Lauren Hehir, of the cross country team earlier this season. Her dedication to the program and her strive for excellence is what current coach Melody O’Reilly loves to see in that leadership role.
“When I met Sara in the office for the first time, I was told she would be my right arm,” O’Reilly said. “She’s had her finger on the pulse of the team and she was going to be really helpful.”
Since being named team captain, Radzwilka has helped the team with the day-to-day operations, which includes making sure her teammates’ grades are up to par and making sure they stay in shape.
“She’s been super helpful in getting the team organized and getting them in shape,” O’Reilly said. “She really gives inspiring thoughts to the team.”
O’Reilly said Radzwilka’s strongest aspect is her speeches in the team circle before the races. Those responsibilities are something Radzwilka takes very seriously but the top priority is academics, she said.
“Some of the core responsibilities of being a captain are to make sure all teammates are doing well academically and athletically,” Radzwilka said. “It’s important for Lauren and I to keep up on them – making sure everyone is keeping up to date with injuries. That’s really important and aware of everyone’s goals.”
Radzwilka chose Saint Joseph’s because of a speech coach Quinn made when she visited the campus a high school senior. Quinn was the keynote speaker for the athletic department and advised interested cross country or track students to stay behind and seek more information.
“The speech was very persuasive,” Radzwilka said. “They made it seem like running here would be home to me, just like it was at Wyoming Area.”
Along with running cross country for the Hawks, Radzwilka is also a member of the track and field team. On the paths this fall, Radzwilka has turned in several personal bests at different distances. One of her best performances helped Saint Joseph’s win the Paul Short Run at Lehigh University in early October.
Radzwilka ran a 23:15.6 in the six-kilometer race. It’s been a successful year so far, she said, but she’s hoping for the Hawks to turn some heads once the Atlantic 10 championships start later this month.
The win at the Paul Short Run was special for Radzwilka. In 2014, the team finished near last. Everyone is moving in the right direction prior to the championships, she said.
“That was a big deal for me,” she said. “The amount of improvement that everyone had was impressive.”
Radzwilka’s other personal best this season came at the Big 5 Invitationals in Philadelphia and the TCNJ Blue/Gold run in New Jersey. She ran a four-kilometer 15:27.3 in Philadelphia and a six-kilometer 19:11 in New Jersey.
Although competing two hours south of Greater Pittston, Radzwilka feels at home, especially since 2015 Dallas graduate Lindsey Oremus chose to attend Saint Joseph’s. A 2014 PIAA silver medalist in cross country, Oremus is currently the team’s top runner, and Radzwilka has taken her under her wing to start her career.
“It’s great to have someone who’s so close to home,” Radzwilka said. “We tell everyone how great the 570 is.”
O’Reilly loves to see Radzwilka mentoring Oremus.
“Sara has been a great inspiration for Lindsey,” O’Reilly said. “She hit the ground running and she is not waiting for anyone.”
As a senior at Wyoming Area, Radzwilka was a District 2 gold medalist in the 800 and was a four-time medalist in the run throughout her career. She was a two-time District 2 medalist in cross country, setting school records in the 400, 800 and the 4×800.
At Saint Joseph’s, Radzwilka’s main track event is the 800. She’ll also be a participant in the mile run this spring.
Radzwilka will finish her college career in the spring. Currently, she’s studying Interdisciplinary Health Services with a minor in Psychology. She plans to attend Occupational Therapy school following graduation. Until then, her sights are set on the Atlantic 10 championships and finishing her running career with a bang.
The Atlantic 10 championships are set for Saturday, Oct. 31 in Mechanicsville, Virginia. The race is a 5k.
“I want to take advantage of my of my last opportunities as a Hawk,” she said. “That meet means a lot here. I just want us to do as well as we possibly can.”
Reach Nick Wagner at 570-991-6406 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick