Egg Harbor Township High School senior Ashley Gerald became the first runner in fourth-year coach Erika Vazquez’s tenure to commit to a Division I track and field program when Gerald signed her national letter of intent Feb. 6 to compete for Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.
Gerald’s decision was extra special for herself and her coach.
Vazquez, the reigning Press Coach of the Year, also went to Egg Harbor Township and continued her track and field career at Saint Joseph’s before graduating in 2002.
“(Coach Vazquez) helped me so much, and I’m so grateful for her and how much she helped me a long with this process,” Gerald said in a phone interview Monday. “It feels wonderful. I definitely worked very hard to get here, and thanks to my coach and my team I’ve had tons of support.”
“My team is really great. They really pushed me to be a better runner and all together it’s poised me to get to a Division I school like St. Joe.”
“It’s neat being a coach at my old high school and now it’s really exciting to have an athlete go to my college,” Vazquez said. “She’s going to be running for the same coach I ran for.”
Kevin Quinn has been with the program for 47 years and is entering his 28th season as head coach. Quinn graduated from Saint Joe’s in 1962. The Hawks compete in the Atlantic 10 Conference, which was won by Charlotte last season.
Gerald was also considering D-I programs—University of Loyola and Mount St. Mary’s, both in Maryland, and Fordham University in New York.
The 17-year old said she received a partial academic and athletic scholarship to run for the Hawks. Gerald made The Press second team as a junior for her part in EHT’s 4x400 relay. She was sixth in the 400-meter run at the South Jersey Group IV championships in 59.13 seconds and second at the Cape-Atlantic League Championships in 58.8. She also helped the Eagles to a 8-0 record and their first CAL American Conference title in program history. EHT also won the Atlantic County championships for the second straight year in 2012.
“I think she’s going to do really well (at Saint Joseph’s).” Vazquez said. “She’s really matured as an athlete, especially this year. She has put a lot of effort into her training. I think she’ll be really prepared for what’s to come in the Division I program. She seems very excited and eager to enter that next phase of her life.”
Gerald said she wants to major in English and maybe work in the journalism field in the future. She said it was a relief to finally make her decision.
“I love being able to know where I’m going to go and have that feeling that it’s Saint Joe,” Gerald said. “It was my No.1 school and it kind of feels like a dream come true. It takes a lot of stress off.”
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