Lions' Coach Announces First Half of Incoming Class
SAINT LEO, Fla. – Coming off the most successful season in Saint Leo Cross Country history, Men's and Women's Coach Melissa Miller has announced the first four signings of her 2011-12 class as Holly Blackburn (Groveland, Fla.), Amanda Leon (Miami, Fla.), Connor Callahan (Columbus, Ohio) and Jeffery Van Natter (Spring Hill, Fla.) each signed National Letters of Intent to run at Saint Leo next season.
"I am excited about this incoming class and what each individual can bring athletically and academically," stated Miller. We are building a strong foundation and I feel each one that is brought in will help achieve our goals on the course and in the classroom. These four in particular bring a competitive background and will be excellent representatives of the team and University."
In total, the class features eight signees, including four women and four men. The remaining four runners will be featured in the coming weeks.
5'2" | Miami, Fla.
Mater Academy High School
Leon competed at Mater Academy, earning Team MVP honors during her sophomore, junior, and senior seasons. Also a star on the track, the incoming freshman collected Team MVP accolades during her junior and senior campaigns. Most recently, Leon was selected an All-Dade County Honorable Mention selectee in track, as well as Mater Academy Athlete of the Year.
Leon currently owns a personal 5K-best time of 21:59 while also posting career times in the 800M (2:25.00), the 400M (1:00.00), and the 1600M (5:47.00).
5'4" | Groveland, Fla.
South Lake High School
Blackburn enjoyed a successful four-year tenure in the sports of track and cross country while at South Lake. On the track, she established impressive personal-best times in a trio of events, including the 1600M (5:38.44), the 3200M (12:44.28), and the 5000M (20:07.32).
In addition, Blackburn clinched fourth-place at the Walt Disney World Classic crossing the line with a time of 20:49.90. She also grabbed fifth-place at the flrunners.com Invitational (20:32.64) and solidified a third-place finish at the Disney Marathon (3:42.20).
Miller's Perspective: "Holly and Amanda will bring great endurance and speed to our squad. Holly is no stranger to our high mileage regime and Amanda will bring a pivotal burst to the pack of women runners. Each of their talents and character will contribute to the team's goal of improving our SSC finish."
5'10" | Columbus, Ohio
Bishop Hartley High School
Callahan, one the Lions three out-of-Florida recruits, ran four varsity seasons under Coach Julie Gerdeman at Bishop Hartley. Tabbed First Team All-Central Catholic League in both his junior and senior seasons, Callahan was also a regional qualifier on two occasions.
He was voted Most Improved as a sophomore, collected the Coaches Award as a junior, and was finally selected Team MVP as a senior where he set 5K personal-best time of 17:05.
Also finding time to compete in the sport of track, he was selected 'Top New Runner' as a junior.
Jeff Van Natter
5'11" | Spring Hill, Fla.
Nature Coach Technical High School
Van Natter, a local signee from Nature Coach, registered stellar times in both cross country and track.
Named All-County Cross Country in 2009 and 2010, he also saw accolades on the track side as he was deemed All-County Track and Field in 2010 and 2011. Van Natter also earned United States Marine Corps Distinguished Athlete for 2011.
He collected a 5K-best time of 17:07 and also crossed the tape with a high school best times of 4:40.00 in the 1600M and 2:03.00 in the 800M.
Miller's Perspective: "With the additions of Connor and Jeff, I can see both being competitive immediately for a top five positions on the team. With our key front runner able to compete this fall, and a gap of less than 30 seconds between the five, we are capable of improving our finish at our conference championship run."
The Lions are set to kick-off their fall championship season this September.