When Little Things Add Up: Maggie St. John, Runner Extraordinaire And Driven Student
Today, more than ever perhaps, Maggie St. John ’24 knows that time and place matter.
“Keene State allowed me to find community and to find my passion for running again,” Maggie says. “If I didn’t transfer, I don’t think I would have run again. I can’t imagine my life now without it.”
The Keene State senior - a health sciences major, UNH transfer, and nearby Hinsdale native - on Saturday qualified for the NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships, the first Owl female runner since 2015 to achieve the feat.
She’s sharpened her career focus, looks forward to graduate school, and says that cross country is stoking all her competitive fires. Maggie is not sure how her field of study will play out career-wise, but the topic is “my passion” and offers many professional avenues. She will be in warmer climes, she said, that she is sure of.
Maggie transferred from UNH after her first year in college but didn’t run cross country as a sophomore. She changed her major from biology to a new option - health sciences - focusing on population and community. She will also graduate with minors in biology and addiction.
Her major is part of the College’s interdisciplinary health sciences program grounded in the liberal arts.
When she hits the course again, competitively, she will aim to become the first Owl since 2011 to garner All-America status. To do that, she will need a top-40 finish at the NCAA event on Nov. 18 in Newville, Pa.
Maggie earned her place in the race with a 14th-place finish at the NCAA East Regional on November 11, where she ran the 6K course in 22 minutes, 22.24 seconds, passing a handful of runners over the final third of the race to punch her ticket to the NCAAs.
The top seven individuals at the Regional meet, after the team qualifiers were chosen, earned a national bid.
“Maggie’s race to qualify was executed to plan and she fought for every centimeter of the course,” her Keene State coach, Dan Roark, said.
Still, Maggie and her coach had to wait until Sunday’s official announcement for the at-large berths.
“We knew going in that top 15 was the target to be in the mix,” Roark said. “The race was the same 2,000-meter loop, three times. As she came around to finish the last loop you could see in her eyes that she was emptying the tank and fighting to make her goal.”
Added Roark, “Maggie is always pushing for 100-percent effort in all aspects of her life but does it in a very unassuming way. With her small stature, she can physically be overlooked at times but she makes herself stand out in a positive way by her drive. Her ability to not let herself have a bad day and be humble are her superpowers.”
Her NCAA qualifying run didn’t come out of the blue. Maggie led the Owls to their second straight Little East Conference team title a week earlier, finishing second overall for the second consecutive year to earn All-Conference honors.
In high school, Maggie was class valedictorian, class president, and a National Honor Society student. As an athlete, she set school records in the 400 meters, 800, 1,600, 3,200, 5K and 4x800. She also helped to lead the school basketball team to a Division IV state title.
Everything has come together, said Maggie, who commutes to classes from her hometown 30 minutes away. The smaller campus, classes, and the connections she has made as a student-athlete have been transformative.
Maggie did not run as a sophomore because she thought she was done with the sport and moved on from it during COVID-19. It wasn’t until one of her high school teammates and good friends, Kailyn Fleury, was planning to join the team as an incoming first-year that she convinced Maggie to train with her over the summer and join the team.
Another Hinsdale resident, Juliana Yialiades ’24, is also on the team.
“Finding a group that you can fit in with and rally around makes a difference,” Roark said. “As soon as Maggie joined the team she had a whole team of friends. As a transfer student the second time around, I think you have a better idea of what is important in the college journey and you can focus on those things.”
The cross-country program, Roark said, features traditional first-year students, transfer students looking to join the team, and strong athletes who, maybe like Maggie, are looking for their place on campus.
It is not unusual to welcome transfer students to the program, Roark said. “I think our coaching staff does a great job at understanding transfer students, as most of our cross country and track coaching staff went through the transfer process ourselves.”
Maggie’s drive and determination have always been a part of her nature, she said, crediting family and a younger brother in particular for always being there for her. “Hard work,” she said, “pays off, in school and in running. Results don’t happen, you earn them, and being supported and cheered on helps.”
“College worked out for me. My senior year is so incredibly different from my first year. You don’t need to know what you want to do when you start, but you will grow and you will discover your true interests and passions. I did.”