Lindsey Oremus grew up around fire.
A native of Wyoming, Pennsylvania, a Scranton/Wilkes-Barre-area town that just tipped the 3,000-person population mark in 2017, Oremus was surrounded by emergency services her entire life as she watched her mother, Maureen, fight fires with the Franklin Township Volunteer Fire Department. She and her younger sister, Riley, would go to "practice burns" and watch their mother run into buildings. Those other times, when they weren't allowed to tag along, Oremus would pull out her cell.
"I'd text her every time she left the house at 4:00 a.m. like, 'Mom, I know you're going to a fire . . . stay safe."
It would come as no surprise that, in watching her hero year after year, Oremus became interested in the idea of fighting those same fires. In 2012, she made the decision to follow in her mom's boots and try out the fire department. She did so under the direction of the team's leader, a woman who worked her way up and served under the title of "Acting Chief" at the time: her mom.
And that marked one of the earliest times when a 15-year-old, small-town girl was introduced to the idea of a woman leading the way.
"Seeing my mom fill that role at a young, vulnerable age, that age when you're in middle and high school, was really valuable to me. The big takeaway from my mom's firefighter days was that I saw her in that leadership role, and I knew that I wanted to be just like her in my life."
EMERGENCY MEDICAL TECHNICIAN
Oremus chose ambulances over firetrucks.
Working next to her mother on the front lines of fire opened Oremus' young eyes to new opportunities and experiences and, through that, her love for emergency medical services.
Having just turned 17 in Summer '14, Oremus decided to pursue her emergency medical technician license. So that summer, when juniors-turning-seniors spent their days taking a break from the rigors of academic demands, Oremus enrolled in an accelerated certification class at the local community college.
Over the next eight weeks, Oremus attended class for nine hours a day - four days a week - with practicals on the weekends. The youngest in the class by a long shot, Oremus trained with adults that entire summer.
"Aside from leadership qualities, I picked up a more mature attitude heading into my senior year of high school. I was around adults a lot and was dealing with serious situations. I was responding to people on their worst days."
Oremus used that certification to volunteer and that next summer, when she turned 18, she earned yet another opportunity. At the age of being legally permitted to work in the back of an ambulance with a patient, Oremus began employment with the Avoca Ambulance Association, based out of Avoca, Pennsylvania.
For Oremus, the opportunity was life-changing.
"Those people have instilled so much in me, every one of them. It's a really well-run department full of inspirational people. They are the reason I love what I do so much, because I love working with those guys and I love working with that town. That initial opportunity catapulted my career as an emergency medical technician."
Oremus remained with Avoca part-time during her freshman year at SJU and then began a job with Event Medical Staffing Solutions, an event-based company contracted with Saint Joseph's, as a sophomore in October '16. She's been with the company ever since.
"[Working with EMSS] has given me experience, people skills, and leadership qualities. I still get that 'being-able-to-help-others' feel and service aspect. I picked up a lot of how I act around my team from the things that I've gotten myself involved with, especially first-responding for the last six years of my life."
All three of Oremus' official visits to Hawk Hill got cancelled.
The first visit, set for October '14, gave way to a bad storm. As did the November '14 visit... and the January '15 visit. By that third visit, Oremus had had enough of the bad weather.
"For the January one, [former head coach] Coach Quinn called and said, 'We're cancelling visits for today.' But my family was already dressed and practically in the car, so we were like, 'Let's just go.'"
The Oremus crew hopped in and made the 100-plus mile drive down Route 476 to Philly. The weather transformed Hawk Hill into a snow globe that day, and Oremus recalls two main thoughts from her visit: the weather was cold but the campus warmed her heart.
"I fell in love with the atmosphere, the culture, and the buildings. I got to meet the team at practice, and they seemed cool and welcoming. I leaned over to my dad at one point and I was like, 'Hey . . . I think I want to go here. I think this is it.' Once I got here, the university differentiated itself so much from the other colleges I was interested in. It was a different feel and it was a completely different school."
The fact that she bleeds green doesn't hurt, either.
"I knew that I wanted to be in Philadelphia, and the Philadelphia Eagles were a huge driver for me. I thought I wanted to go to a bigger school; I would've looked at schools like La Salle and Delaware. I didn't want to go into the city, so St. Joe's was as close as I was going to get to the city. Coming in, I didn't think I wanted a small-school vibe, but it really was evident to me when I got here that this was what I wanted and what I needed for myself going forward."
Oremus first toed the starting line in seventh grade.
She was a two-time Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association District II Cross Country Championship silver medalist and went on to blow up at Dallas High, capping her career as the 2015 PIAA District II 1600m champion and 800m silver medalist before going on to place sixth in the 1600m at the 3A PIAA state meet.
Next up? A chance to race against Division I competition.
It can be challenging to come in as a freshman, in any situation. You're away from home... you're living with new people... you don't have your pet... the list can be overwhelming. Toss in the rigors of collegiate athletics and top that with the pressures that come with being a GOOD collegiate runner and you have a completely different race, so to speak.
Oremus entered into a cross country program chock full of leadership and talent as a freshman in August '15. She raced in eight meets as a rookie and finished as SJU's top runner seven times. Not SJU's top freshman runner. SJU's top runner.
"I was more nervous as a freshman because I didn't want the older girls to be like, 'Who does this kid think she is coming in?' But at the same time, I wanted to perform well because I wanted to do well for my team. It was this weird in-between where I wanted to run really hard but at the same time wanted everyone to like me."
The rookie sensation wouldn't need to worry. She impressed over anything else.
"Lindsey was very different from most underclassmen from the second she showed up for her first day of preseason cross country practice, and I mean that in the best way possible," said Lauren Hehir '16, Oremus' captain in her rookie season. "I remember from the get-go how chatty, smiley, and genuinely excited she was to be a part of the SJU community, and that is the type of energy people gravitate towards. Being a leader is more than just a formal title or position. It is a skill and, in some rare cases, part of someone's identity."
"The first time I ever met Lindsey, I was almost overwhelmed, in the best way," added Sarah Regnault '17, Oremus' captain in her second season. "She had so much enthusiasm and excitement about being on the team. It’s refreshing to see that kind of reaction from a freshman, because normally it’s an intimidating process coming into something so new and unfamiliar. It was in that moment you knew she was going to have a huge impact on the team, and she proved that to be true. She puts her whole self into the sport, and when you see that coming from someone who is younger than you, it inspires you. Lindsey has big goals not only for herself, but for the team. No matter what her own personal outcome from a race was, Lindsey was and is able to recognize a teammate if they had an outstanding day, and that’s what makes a leader at the end of the day: when you can look at everyone’s personal achievements and realize it contributes to something larger."
Sophomore year was much of the same, as Oremus finished as SJU's top runner six times in seven races, highlighted by an 11th-place finish at the 2016 Atlantic 10 Championship for All-Conference honors.
“Lindsey was a great teammate and showed strong leadership qualities from the moment she stepped in her freshman year,” said Cassidy Weimer ’18, Oremus’ captain in her junior season. “As she developed throughout the program, she really became a leader by example. It was nice to see the younger girls that came in after her look up to her because of all the consistent hard work she put into the sport.”
Oremus went on to finish as SJU's top runner in the first three races of the 2017 season before turning in the top Hawk performance in six of seven races this past fall.
In all, Oremus led Saint Joseph's 22 times in 29 opportunities over her four years on the trails, which included seven of 12 championship-caliber races.
"I respect the girls above me. They're great runners and great people, and I just always wanted to make them proud and, at the same time, be able to make myself proud, too. I was never going to sit back and watch somebody else do what I knew I could do because I thought they should be in that role. I came in here and immediately filled that role, and that's a role I've held the last four years. I'm proud of it, and I had to use it to improve myself and to improve our team."
You don't need to have a title to be a leader, but Oremus earned it this year.
This past summer before entering her senior cross country season, Oremus was selected to attend the NCAA Career in Athletics Leadership Forum, where she learned about Division I, II, and III athletics and both conference- and national-level offices and jobs and heard advice from coaches and athletic directors.
She took that information with her into preseason camp this August, captaining the squad with fellow seniors Elaine Estes, Britton Gagliardi, and Lucy Harmon.
"The four of us are the four most different people you could get, and we all add something positive to the team. Elaine is sensible and makes sure that things get done while Lucy is a young heart and brings fun to the team; it's always a smile when she's around. Britton is the responsible one in training and always pushes people in workouts while I'm really personable with people; I expect my team to come to practice and give 110 percent because I'm going to come to practice and give 110 percent. We meant a lot to the team as a whole, and I'm proud of our leadership."
A senior being named captain after leading the team in finishes over her first three seasons... not a surprise.
A senior spending time each and every day making sure that the underclassmen on the team feel welcomed and comfortable... a pleasant surprise.
Oremus is the only senior to have a weekly meal plan at Campion. And that's not for the food.
"Since freshman year, I've been the big Campion girl on the team. The team atmosphere that we have there is my favorite part of every single day of the week. When we're in there, it's just a big, family meal, every time. I have not only gotten to know my peers in my class and the class below mine better, but I've met the freshmen better."
The freshmen, who don't have houses to cook food in with just microwaves and refrigerators in their dorm rooms, are stuck with Campion. Oremus is not.
"I go every single day to be with my team, and I've formed friendships that are just as close to me as the ones I have with my own class now, which is in big part due to Campion. That atmosphere then goes over into the locker room and that trust is formed. I enjoy hearing about their excitements and struggles and questions, and that's been one of my highlights of college, being able to form bonds with other people on the team. When I walk out of college, I'll have friends that are three years older than I am and three years younger than I am, so I have a span of seven years of friends in four years of College. That's something I feel a lot of people can't say, and I value those friendships more than I value anything else here at St. Joe's.
HOME ON HAWK HILL
Looking back, Oremus has always had the makings of a leader. Saint Joseph's pushed the (red) envelope.
"If I had gone to another college, say a bigger college, I wouldn't have gotten these same vibes. My athletic successes have allowed me to have a little bit of that, and then I took that initiative to get to know people on a personal level. I don't just look at Don DiJulia and say, 'Oh, he was our athletic director.' I know his family, his wife. I sit with him at basketball games. I got to know people on a deeper level, and I think that the St. Joe's community and culture allowed for me to have that."
"This place has allowed me to build the relationships that I needed to further myself in my life. I was able to form relationships and friendships with so many different people in so many different parts of this campus throughout all different departments, from athletics to the Writing Center to the philosophy department to my own department (IHS) to the people who serve us food at Campion. I'm in the process, right now, of writing Christmas cards for everybody that I have a relationship with, which is way more people than I can even count! But that's what it is . . . the closeness of the staff and faculty to the students."
With her collegiate cross country career now behind her, Oremus will shift her focus to indoor track and field where, at the beginning of this month, she already crushed her 3000m personal record. Her goals include scoring at both the indoor and outdoor Atlantic 10 Track and Field Championships and qualifying for both the indoor and outdoor ECAC Track and Field Championships, 'attainable goals' to the standout. She wants to get down under the 4:55 barrier in the mile, 9:45 mark in the 3000m, and as close to that 17:00 area as she can in the 5000m.
Those will be PRs. And those will be enough.
"If that takes me to NCAA East prelims, that's awesome. If it doesn't, I will still have attained what I set out to do, and then that is what it is and I'll be able to walk out of here with my head held high and say, 'Hey, I ran the best season of my life.'"
With that head held high, she'll walk out of the Hawk Hill walls with opportunities lined up. Firefighter? EMT? Coach? Post-collegiate runner?
Somewhere that depends heavily on strong communication skills. Somewhere that needs what she is: someone to lead.
"I'm a people person. I have strong skills to fulfill a role in that kind of a path. I'm a coachable kid and have good relationship skills and interpersonal communicative skills."
She'll figure it out. Hawk Hill has made sure of that.
And it won't be from the back of the classroom.