San Antonio – There’s a new coach and a new last name for its top runner, but the expectations remain the same for St. Mary’s Cross Country this season.

After qualifying last year for the NCAA Division II South Central Regional meet for the first time since 2006, the Rattlers have been picked fourth in the Heartland Conference preseason poll, it was announced this week.

St. Mary’s, which placed fourth at the Heartland Conference Meet a year ago, will be led this fall by first-year coach Haley Long. Also the Rattlers’ assistant softball coach, Long comes from the University of Texas-Permian Basin, where she completed her master’s degree in kinesiology in 2012.

She inherits a talented roster at St. Mary’s, led by the newly married Jessica Waninger-Saroni (Santa Claus, Ind.), a triathlete who finished 10th at last year’s conference meet. One of eight returning runners, Waninger-Saroni will be joined by a trio of newcomers – two of whom are anything but new to St. Mary’s Athletics.

Fifth-year seniors Angelique De Oliveira and DeAnna Patterson will run cross country this fall after previously starring in women’s tennis and women’s basketball, respectively. Patterson (Converse, Texas) was an All-Conference Honorable Mention selection last year, while De Oliveira (Wattrelos, France) helped the Lady Rattlers advance to the Heartland semifinals in tennis.

Dallas Baptist was picked first in the preseason poll with 73 total votes and nine-first place votes, while Newman came in second with 66 votes and two first-place tallies. Texas A&M International was picked third with two more votes than the 42 votes St. Mary’s received. 

The Rattlers will open up the 2012 season at the Alamo City Opener at Olmos Basin Park in San Antonio on Aug. 31.

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