Women's Cross Country - Thu, Nov. 5, 2009
CHICAGO - The Saint Xavier University women's cross country team may be ranked No. 24 in the latest NAIA Top 25 Poll, but the Cougars are No. 1 in the heart of 10-year-old Sarah Panozzo. Sarah is the daughter of SXU alumnus Jim Panozzo '77, a former baseball standout inducted into the Saint Xavier University Athletics Hall of Fame in 2003. Sarah was diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis (NF), a genetic disorder of the nervous system that causes tumors to form on the nerves anywhere in the body at any time. On Thursday, October 29, the Cougars officially adopted Sarah Panozzo to their team through the Friends of Jaclyn (FOJ) Foundation, a non-profit, charitable organization that improves the quality of life for children with pediatric brain tumors and their families by matching the child with an area college or high school sports team.

"Our team really got excited about this idea when we first heard about the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation through an advertisement," said SXU women's cross country coach Lisa Ebel. "Once our girls met Sarah, it was a natural fit. She has a great sense of humor and brings so much energy to our team. They are thrilled that Sarah will be cheering for them at this weekend's conference championship."

As an honorary team member, Sarah will travel with the Cougars on Saturday, November 7, to the 2009 Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) Women's Cross Country Championships at Dellwood Park in Lockport, Ill. The women's race is scheduled for a 10:30 a.m. start. She will cheer them on as the Cougars defend their 2008 conference title. The newest member has already had opportunities to bond with her teammates when the group got together to make friendship bracelets and decorate pumpkins earlier last month.

The SXU women's cross country team also walked in "Smiles For Sarah" on Sunday, October 25. "Smiles For Sarah" is an annual hike held in Oak Forest, Ill., which helps raise money for Illinois NF, Inc., and Children's Memorial Hospital's Brain Tumor Research Center and NF Clinic.