by Tom Utescher
To look like a genius of prognostication at the 2010 Pa. Independent Schools Cross Country Championships last Saturday, all you had to do was circle the favorites.
Chestnut Hill Academy junior Dustin Wilson wins the boys’ race – check. Penn Charter sophomore Catie Skinner wins the girls race – check. The Germantown Friends School boys squad, 21st in the nation last fall, takes the boys’ team championship – bingo. Two-time defending champ Academy of Notre Dame takes the girls’ title – right again.
Essentially unchallenged, 2009 runner-up Wilson crossed the line this year in 15 minutes, 47.61 seconds on the 3.1-mile course at Belmont Plateau, a time which would have won any of the boys’ races in September’s sprawling Briarwood Invitational at the same venue.
After a lone runner from Abington Friends, junior Sami Aziz, took second place in 16:23, GFS seniors Evan Caldwell (16:32) and David Waterman (16:50) snared third and fourth. The Tigers clinched their fifth straight state crown by putting three more scorers in the top dozen; senior Cameron MacTavish (sixth/17:02), and juniors Christian Brady (11th/17:14) and Nick Dye (12th/17:15).
The other top-ten finishers were Hill School senior Ben Eberhart (fifth/16:55), Germantown Academy junior Nick Meloro (seventh/17:06), Episcopal Academy senior Jack Freese (eighth/17:09), CHA senior Mike Fuery (ninth/17:09) and GA sophomore Max Huang Hobbs (10th/17:14).
With 2009 titlist Gus McKenzie stopping over from the University of Pennsylvania to watch his former Tiger teammates triumph, GFS topped runner-up GA in the boys’ team scoring, 36-87. Malvern Prep, which came in behind GA at the Inter-Ac League meet, scored 138 points on Saturday,
while Chestnut Hill was the seventh-place squad with 209 points and Penn Charter, with 291 points, was 11th in the field of 16 teams.
Almost all of the teams at the Indy championships hail from Southeastern PA, and as Chestnut Hill’s Wilson noted “In this meet I know that there’s no one I’ll be running neck-and-neck with that I’ve never seen before.”
He went out quickly, covering the first mile in 4:42, according to CHA coach Paul Hines.
“I knew that as a team GFS is very strong, and if they got three or four guys up with me they could mess with strategy,” Wilson explained. “Once I got up the hill the last time I was fairly certain that I had it.”
One of the GFS runners the Chestnut Hill star was concerned about was senior Evan Caldwell, a Hill resident who attended lower school at CHA.
“We always have a “goal session” the night before a big race,” Caldwell said. “We knew at some point Dustin would make a move, so we wanted to react to that and follow him, and do as well as we could. He pulled away and then David [Waterman] and I worked together. The other guys pushed together, too, so we ended up with some good places overall.”
“There’s a big group of guys on our team who all want to be that number four or five [seven runners are picked to race but only five score]. They’re pretty close in their times and they compete hard with one another, so that helps our team.”
As usual, the GFS squad will be heading to the annual Nike Northeast Regional Championships (a team event), which will be held this year on November 27 at its customary location near Poughkeepsie, NY.
The conclusion of the girls’ race last weekend was a little more dramatic than the boys’ event, but it was not a nail-biter. Notre Dame junior Maria Seykora had beaten Penn Charter’s Skinner in a dual meet, then Skinner turned the tables at the Inter-Ac Championships on October 18.
After she won Saturday’s state meet, the PC standout revealed, “The girls team didn’t really have a practice yesterday so I practiced with the boys here at Belmont. I think that definitely helped me visualize what I wanted to do in the race today. I feel strong on the hills so I always want to push them to keep anyone from catching me.”
Skinner was just a few strides ahead of Seykora as the pair emerged from the woods and started up the last long hill on the course with a little over eight-tenths of a mile to go. By the time they crested the plateau near the old Belmont Mansion, Skinner was in front by 50 meters.
“Through the woods [in the middle mile] I heard her breathing behind me,” the sophomore said. “Then when I stopped hearing her I got a little worried, because I didn’t know where she was and I know she has a really good kick at the end. It was all good, though.”
She won in 19:10.07, Seykora crossed the line in 19:18, and after a while Irish senior Julianne Garvey (20:05) took third place ahead of Westtown School sophomore Natalie McLaughlin (20:08) and Mercersburg Academy senior Mackenzie Riford (20:11). In sixth place was Notre Dame sophomore Siobhan Dougherty (20:12), and the Irish also copped 15th and 20th place to capture the team title with 44 points, easily outdistancing the next two schools, Agnes Irwin (96) and Notre Dame.
In seventh place in the individual standings was Westtown senior Grace Hancock (20:23), and another upperclassman, Claudia Keep of Solebury School, was a fraction of a second behind in eighth place. GA’s top runner, 11th-grader Christina DeRusso, has been coping with an Achilles tendon problem, but she managed to place 11th in 21:02, finishing after Episcopal juniors Kristen Greenwood (ninth/20:27) and Christine Davis (10th/20:33).
Ordinarily the number one for Germantown Friends, senior Brooke Palus was kept out of the race by an accumulation of nagging injuries. Sophomore Isabelle Goldstein stepped up to lead the Tigers, placing 14th in 21:08, and junior Tess Doggett was 19th in 21:36. GFS coach Jeff Hayes praised senior Jessica Love for filling in for Palus and finishing third among the Tigers, and also Emily Shuldiner (another upperclassman) for bouncing back from a stress fracture.
However, Friends Schools League rival Westtown was able to edge GFS in the team standings, coming in fourth, with 109 points, while the Tigers were fifth, with 113.
Sixth, with 144 points, was Penn Charter, which backed up Skinner’s effort with an 18th-place showing by her 10th-grade classmate Ani Schug (21:35) and a 21st-place result from senior Elyse Wilkinson (21:48).
The first Springside athlete to cross the line was sophomore Kelsea Brewer, 45th overall in 22:55, and placing 54th and 55th for the Lions, respectively, were freshman Sarah-Chen Ogorek (23:39) and junior Emily Davis (23:47). With 291 points, Springside wound up 11th out of 13 teams.
Both Skinner and CHA’s Wilson will race at the Footlocker Northeast Region Individual Championships, slated for November 27 on Long Island.