Eight Loyola runners named to SSAC All-Academic team

Mon, 01/06/2014

Francesca Vaccaro was one of 8 SSAC All-Academic Honorees

(New Orleans, La.) The Loyola University New Orleans cross country teams had eight student athletes named to the Southern States Athletic Conference All-Academic Team which was announced recently by the conference.

The women’s team had five honorees led by Annie Hills, Denise Powell, Ashleigh Sparks, Francesca Vaccaro and Jessica Williams. Michael Corso, Paul Freese, and Henry Gerbracht were all honored for the men’s squad.

Annie Hills set the Loyola school record this year at the Sand Shark Invitational on October 26th. She followed that with a 19:34 mark at the SSAC Championships, placing her seventh at the meet and earning her a spot on the All-SSAC team for the second straight year. That time was also the fifth fastest mark in school annals. The senior from Swisher, Iowa finished fifth at the Fifth Annual Loyola Wolf Pack Invitational on September 7th to help the Pack to a team championship. Hills had three top 10 finishes on the season. One of those occurred at the Watson Ford Invitational when Hills ran the third fastest 6K in Wolf Pack history with a 25:02. Hills finished the NAIA Nationals in 20:49 which tied for the 8th fastest Nationals time by a Wolf Pack runner. She was also named a Daktronics-NAIA Scholar Athlete and a Musco Lighting Champion of Character.

Denise Powell was named to the SSAC All-Academic team for the second straight year. The junior from Pearl, Mississippi had her best season for the Wolf Pack as she finished in the top 21 in three separate races including at the SSAC Championships. She posted the 12th fastest time in school history at the Sand Shark Invitational when she finished the 5K race in 19:45, which was also a personal record. Powell also was tabbed a Daktronics-NAIA Scholar Athlete.

Ashleigh Sparks capped her first season of competition for the Wolf Pack with her two best times of the season. The sophomore set a personal record of 23:06 at the Sand Shark Invitational. The denizen of Mandeville, Louisiana posted her best finish of the year at the 5th Annual Loyola Wolf Pack Invitational where she took 41st place.

Francesca Vaccaro had the third fastest time in Wolf Pack history when she ran the Sand Shark Invitational in 19:24 on October 26th. The Yorba Linda, California native then placed 15th at the SSAC Championships with a 19:51 5K to qualify her for NAIA Nationals. The sophomore barely missed Nationals last season but improved her time by 36 seconds on the same course to ensure qualification this year. She finished seventh at the Fifth Annual Loyola Wolf Pack Invitational to help the Pack to a team championship in the first race of the season. Vaccaro ran the 10th fastest Nationals mark for a Loyola runner when she tallied a 20:50 at Rim Rock Farm in Lawrence, Kansas.

Jessica Williams posted her best finish of the season at the 5th Annual Loyola Wolf Pack Invitational when the Duxbury, Massachusetts native took 31st place with a time of 24:39 on a rain slogged course at Lafreniere Park. The junior’s best time of the year came at the Sand Shark Invitational when she ran the 5K course in 21:16.

Paul Freese was named to the SSAC All-Academic team for the second straight year. He was also the LSWA Male Cross Country Athlete of the Year and was named to the All-Louisiana cross country team. He became the first male NAIA Nationals qualifier for Loyola since 2009. Freese finished the 8K course in 27:48.51, the sixth fastest Nationals time in Loyola history. He qualified after finishing 10th in the men’s 8K race at the SSAC Championships with a personal best of 26:30.12. That was the fourth fastest mark in school history and Freese’s third appearance on the school’s all-time top 10 list. The junior from New Orleans earned SSAC All-Conference honors for his 10th place finish. Freese missed the beginning of the year as he recovered from injury but came on strong at the end. He completed his first full race at the Crimson Classic where he ran 27:53 before besting that with a 26:53 mark at the Sand Shark Invitational. The result at Sand Shark was the eighth fastest 8K in Loyola history. Freese was also named a Daktronics-NAIA Scholar Athlete and was the Musco Lighting Champion of Character recipient for Loyola.

This is the second straight season Michael Corso has been named to the SSAC All-Academic team. The junior from Youngstown, Ohio dealt with injuries most of the year which only allowed him to complete one race. Corso finished fifth at the 5th Annual Loyola Wolf Pack Invitational with a 5K time of 17:43. His mark helped the Wolf Pack squad capture the team title at the event. Corso was pegged as a Daktronics-NAIA Scholar Athlete this season.

Henry Gerbracht will join Powell, Corso, and Freese as two time honorees on the SSAC All-Academic team. The junior posted his top finish at the Loyola Wolf Pack invitational when he finished 15th with a mark of 18:22. The Mandeville, Louisiana native posted a personal best time at the Sand Shark Invitational when he finished the 8K course in 28:13.

“It shows the commitment of these student-athletes in being able to balance academics and athletics. They wake up at 6 in the morning every day, which is not easy for anybody and they all work extremely hard to be successful,” said head cross country coach Andy Canegitta.

SSAC All-Academic Awards are presented to student athletes who excel in the classroom. Nominees must have completed two semesters and earned at least 24 semester hours of college level work, have attained a grade point average of 3.25 or higher based on all courses attempted at their current institution and all previous institutions, and be participating in his or her sport during the semester in which the nomination is submitted.


2013 SSAC All-Academic Cross Country Team
Annie Hills
Denise Powell
Ashleigh Sparks
Francesca Vaccaro
Jessica Williams
Michael Corso
Paul Freese
Henry Gerbracht

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