It was an impressive year in the classroom for St. John’s University student-athletes with 37 of them achieving a 4.0 grade point average in the spring semester. Three members of the track and field team—Katherine Bessey, Therese Gallagher and Stephanie Gerland—were among that elite group. Other female student-athletes with 4.0 GPAs came from fencing, golf, soccer and softball.

“The first thing we tell them is that student comes first in student-athlete,” said track and field head coach Jim Hurt. “You have to earn your education. Your schooling is what’s going to be lasting over time.”

St. John’s has an academic support program and each varsity sport has an academic advisor. Hurt praises Frank Peluso, track and field’s primary academic advisor. There is also a freshmen center for freshmen student-athletes.

Hurt said Bessey, Gallagher and Gerland as well as other track athletes with stellar GPAs are focused on what they want to accomplish. “They’re very disciplined,” Hurt said. “That’s the kid we’re trying to recruit. We’ll give them all the direction, support and guidance that they need.”

Middle distance runner Melissa Greaves recently participated in the Big East Student-Athlete Well Being Forum. The two-day seminar, which was held at Providence College, focused on mental wellbeing.

“I just joined the SAAC [Student-Athlete Advisory Committee] board this year,” said middle distance runner Greaves, an economics major currently doing a summer internship. “Friends who went to the forum last year said it was a really good experience. You get to meet all the student-athlete reps from all the Big East schools. You learn a lot.”

Greaves returns to campus in late August and will participate in cross country season this fall. She does so with skills and perspective gained at the forum. Psychologists and other speakers spoke to the athletes, coaches and trainers about mental health.

“We have to bring awareness to it,” said Greaves, who said the close-knit student-athlete community at St. John’s is very supportive. “My team is very close, so we talk to each other. The main thing is being able to talk.”

She expounded, “As student-athletes you want to be able to handle the pressure and you don’t want to show that you’re struggling because you feel you have to put on a strong front. The most important thing is maintain our health. If you see a teammate is acting a little weird, ask them how they are. It is okay to not be okay.”