Football

Syracuse cross country’s Paige Stoner hopes to burst onto ACC scene after transfer

Courtesy of SU Athletics

Paige Stoner (right) transferred to Syracuse from Lipscomb. Head coach Chris Fox said she has a "really good chance" to earn All-ACC honors.

As Paige Stoner set high school record after high school record, Division I schools began to notice her. They tried to sell her on the power of their cross country programs.

But Stoner had other plans. She wanted to be a nurse.

She immediately ruled out some of the biggest names that contacted her as a result, including a short inquiry from Syracuse.

“Yeah, I guess I shot (Syracuse) down,” Stoner said. “It’s kind of ironic, I guess.”

Stoner, a junior, transferred to Syracuse from Lipscomb — a Nashville, Tennessee school with a nursing program, which SU lacks, before the spring 2016 semester. She decided to pursue elementary education instead of nursing. At Lipscomb, Stoner proved that her high school success was not overblown by finishing as a member of the All-Atlantic Sun Conference first team.

Syracuse’s coaches saw Stoner’s talent at Lipscomb and thought her achievements could carry over to a Power 5 conference. Despite an ankle injury that derailed her sophomore season, the Orange took Stoner in, even though it meant she’d redshirt her first semester at SU.

“She was a transfer, and we usually don’t go after those,” Syracuse head coach Chris Fox said, “but we looked her up and said, ‘Wow, she’s really good.’ We knew she could help us.”

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Courtesy of SU Athletics

Stoner has been impressing her coaches at all levels since she first began running competitively.

She finished her high school career at Pottsville Area (Pennsylvania) High School as one of the most decorated runners in the school’s history. She holds almost every major girl’s cross country record at the school.

“Her determination never wavered, in a training run, in a race, it was always there,” said Barbara McGinley, her high school head coach. “Her sophomore year she won the district gold for us. The top two were neck-and-neck to the finish line and she just shifted to another gear. That was a wow moment.”

SU junior Mary Malone had been distant friends with Stoner for years before they became teammates. The two grew up in Pennsylvania and ran together in field races when Stoner began running competitively.

When Stoner decided to transfer to Syracuse, Malone was one of the first people she called. Malone made Stoner’s transition to the Orange easy, even becoming her roommate.

“She takes every workout seriously,” Malone said, “she just has a pure love of running.”

Now that Stoner is in uniform for the first time at Syracuse, the Orange has high hopes for her. With one race already under her belt, Fox is thinking big.

“If we finish top 10 to 15, a lot of it will be on Paige to run well,” Fox said. “She has a really good chance to be an All-ACC runner this year and hopefully by the time she’s done here she’ll be an All-American.”

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