Wheaton Athletics Spotlight: The Four Year Members of the Women's Cross Country and Track and Field Team

Wheaton Athletics Spotlight: The Four Year Members of the Women's Cross Country and Track and Field Team

Norton, MA- Our next spotlight is on the seniors who competed all four years for the Women's Cross Country and Track and Field Team- Gina Pardi, Abby LeBlanc, Jill van der Schaaf, Briana Gausland, and Holly Cohan. 

Name: Gina Pardi 

Major: Neuroscience

Event: Cross country and 800-5k on the track

Year: Senior

Hometown: Falmouth, Maine 

High School: Falmouth High School 


Name: Abigail LeBlanc 

Major: Psychology

Event: Cross country and 800- 3k Steeplechase on the track with the occasional 4x400 

Year: Senior

Hometown: Saco, Maine 

High School: Thornton Academy 


Name: Jill van der Schaaf

Major: Math and International Relations

Event: High Jump

Year: Senior

Hometown: Union, Maine

High School: Medomak Valley High School 


Name: Briana Gausland 

Major: History

Event: Sprints

Year: Senior

Hometown: Barrington, RI

High School: Barrington High School


Name: Holly Cohan  

Major: Mathematics

Event: Cross country and 800-1500m on the track

Year: Senior

Hometown: Melrose, MA 

High School: Melrose High School 

Question & Answer 

How did you get into Cross Country and/or Track and Field? 

GP- I used to hate running, but my mom is a really good distance runner and she convinced me to try joining the outdoor track team my freshman year of high school. I wanted to be a 400m runner (I don't know what I was thinking back then), but I instantly clicked with the girls on my distance team. I became good friends with all of them, and this connection persuaded me to join the cross country team and fully convert into a distance runner. 

AL- I started running when I was in middle school but back then, doing the sport was just so I could be with my friends after school. It wasn't until high school that I really started to run due to my love for the sport. During my freshman year of high school, I only swam and did outdoor track and field. Soccer was my sport in the fall up until then, so I did not do a sport the first fall of my high school career. However, one night my twin sister had the cross country team over for a pasta party before a big race, and they were all making signs and having so much fun. It was that night that I decided that the following fall I would run for the cross country team. Although I was a pole vaulter and a sprinter, long-distance came pretty easy to me. It was not until I came to Wheaton though, that I finally saw myself as a distance runner. I had always run the 400 and occasionally the 800 anything more on a track was foreign to me, but with support from my coach and teammates, I quickly learned to love running longer than 1 to 2 laps around a track with an occasional jump over a water pit. 

JV- When I was a kid, I used to ask my mom to let me out of the car at the beginning of the dead-end dirt road we lived on so I could run home, to the last house down. It only made sense for me to join the cross country team when I got to middle school, and I immediately fell in love with the sport and ran distance up through freshman year at Wheaton. Every year in high school, I wanted to try new things during outdoor track, and I competed in javelin, hurdles, discus, and distance events - it wasn't until junior year that I finally tried the high jump, which quickly became my favorite. 

BG- I used to play softball as a kid, and I would always be able to steal every base without getting out. My parents (and many others) then encouraged me to try running track. Ever since the 6th grade, I've been hooked, there is nothing else in the world like winning a race. Although, I will say that the one thing that has kept me loving track indefinitely is the many amazing friends I have met along the way!

HC- I've always loved running and decided to try outdoor track for just a couple months each spring in high school, and loved it enough to continue at Wheaton. By my senior year at Wheaton, I decided those two months a year weren't enough and I joined cross country. 

Favorite running/jumping memory?

GP- It's really difficult to pick just one memory, so I would have to say just every run with the women's distance team this year. I've been really fortunate to have some amazing ladies as teammates over the years, but I think that this year's team was my favorite. We had such great chemistry as a group, and I genuinely looked forward to coming to practice every single day. Our squad this year was so fun, hardworking, easygoing, supportive, and outright hilarious. They are all so talented, and they pushed me every single day. These ladies inspired me, made me laugh, and helped me rediscover the joy in running. I will miss running with them every day SO much, but I know that I have a lifelong friend in every single one of them. However, if I MUST pick a specific memory, I would have to pick the 2018 BU Valentine Meet (s/o to Becca Miceli and King Ches). 

AL- Many college students would think it to be crazy to wake up on a Sunday morning at 8 am, but Sundays were my favorite day of the week because of this. On Sundays, The Oval Office (women's distance) would meet at HAAS at 8 am and go for our 7 to 10 mile runs. We would catch up on each other's weeks and just talk about everything. It was a great way to forget about the stress of school and make the run go by faster. The runs were always so much more fun when Coach Ryan would join and we would just bug him the whole time.

JV- It's hard to choose just one! Some of my favorite memories from the last four years have been during jumps practices. Our event group always makes the best out of tough days, and our ability to laugh at ourselves and each other, while also being supportive and serious when we need to be, made every day together so much fun. Another of my favorites would have to be all of January training - moving in three weeks early where our only activities are track or hanging out with the team really brings everyone closer together to kick off competition season.

BG- A lot of my most favorite memories in college have come from being on the team. Although, I have to say that many of my favorite memories have come from the last chance meets. They often did not turn out the way that many of us wanted, but each one was so special. Even in an environment of such high stress and anxiety, athletes supported one another, and we always had an amazing time regardless. Not to mention our family traditions! 

HC- All of my favorite memories of the last 4 years have been with my teammates. My favorite running memory that comes to mind is Cross Country NEWMACs senior year. I had become super close to the team, it was perfect running weather, and some of my friends had surprised me by coming to the meet. I had so much fun running with the team that day and it was the perfect way to end the season. 

Favorite memory at Wheaton College?

GP- Cross country prom 2019! Or attending a world-exclusive screening of the movie, Blessid. 

AL- My favorite memory is my very last night on campus when I was picking up my stuff to come home due to Covid-19. Gina Pardi (my freshman year roommate) and I were moving my car and before we parked it, we decided to drive around campus and while we did we listened and sang along to "You'll Be In My Heart" from the movie Tarzan. 

JV- I think just any time that I spent on the Dimple, whether that was doing homework, taking a break from the library, enjoying the day, trying to get up after sledding, even just walking across. I have a lot of fond memories with friends there, and the Dimple and its surrounding buildings are really what I picture when I think of Wheaton.

BG- I loved all of our training trips! Especially when we went to California in 2018. So many amazing stories and memories from that one trip alone.

HC- My favorite memories at Wheaton have been spending time with my friends and teammates. The people that I have met at Wheaton are what have made the last four years so special to me. I'm grateful for all of the opportunities I have had because of the people that I have met through these experiences. 

Future Plans? 

GP- My plans are to attend grad school to become a physician's assistant, and to beat my mom's road race PRs ;) 

AL- My plans are to take a year off to finish up prerequisites, and then attend grad school starting next fall to eventually become a physical therapist. 

JV- I plan on working as a data analyst before applying to grad programs next year in biostatistics. Since it's difficult to casually high jump as a hobby, I also plan on getting back to my distance runner roots.

BG- I plan to go to grad school next year, for a dual degree in Archives Management and History. Working for the library of congress over the summer. Hoping to become an archivist at a cool library.  I really want to get a genealogy certificate. Hoping to get into some yoga and pilates action. 

HC- My plans are to start working as a data analyst before deciding if and when to attend grad school. I also plan to continue running as much as I can! 


Rapid Fire Questions


Favorite place to eat on campus? Emerson dining hall 

Favorite place to study on campus? The quiet room in the library 

Favorite spot to hang out on campus? Stanton 221 (if you know, you know)

Favorite place to run in Norton? The Mansfield airport loop 

Favorite event in track and field? The mile!

Favorite Movie?  Blessid 



Favorite place to eat on campus? Emerson 

Favorite place to study on campus?  The Periodicals in the Library

Favorite spot to hang out on campus? The office

Favorite place to run in Norton? The trails by Dunkin.

Favorite event in track and field? The 800 but a part of me will always love pole vault. 

Favorite Movie? Because I am a psych major, Extremely Evil, Shockingly Wicked, and Vile.



Favorite place to eat on campus? Balfour

Favorite place to study on campus? The mezzanine

Favorite spot to hang out on campus? The porch of Hungry Lyons House

Favorite place to jump in Norton? Haas!

Favorite event in track and field? High jump

Favorite Movie? Legally Blonde



Favorite place to eat on campus? Emerson!!

Favorite place to study on campus? Clark room (library)

Favorite spot to hang out on campus? Word on the street is Stanton 221 is the place to be 

Favorite place to run in Norton? Haas athletic center ;)

Favorite event in track and field? 100m!

Favorite Movie? Little Women, National Treasure, Amelie (all tied)



Favorite place to eat on campus? Balfour

Favorite place to study on campus? Periodicals

Favorite spot to hang out on campus? The Dimple

Favorite place to run in Norton? Pine Street

Favorite event in track and field? 1500m

Favorite Movie? The Heat

Story by Ryan O'Connell

The Wheaton Lyons will be zoning in on staff, student-athletes, and alumni that help make Wheaton Athletics such a special place. Be sure to check out our next spotlight on Monday.