by Tom Utescher

In a high school cross country dual meet, when a team positions three of its five scorers in first, second, and fourth place, victory is almost certain. When a school does the same thing in a larger championship meet, it has given itself a good chance, but its position is not unassailable.

That point was illustrated on a rainy Monday afternoon last week at the 2012 Inter-Ac League Championships at Belmont Plateau. Germantown Academy, undefeated in league dual meets, started out finishing one-two-four thanks to senior Ben Ritz (16:21.7), his sophomore brother Sam (16:23.2) and senior Max Huang-Hobbs (16:38.6), but the Patriots could not quite seal the deal.

Building on a third-place effort by freshman Jaxson Hoey (16:35.2), defending champ Malvern Prep had all of its other four scorers finish among the top 13, and retained the title with a 42-point team showing. Penn Charter put five men in the top 14 and became runner-up with 48 points, while GA ended up third with 50 points after its last two scorers came in 20th and 23rd.

Well behind the top three teams were Episcopal Academy, in fourth place with 98 points, and Haverford School, with 120. Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, with three-time league champion Dustin Wilson now a freshman at Columbia University, has had trouble trying to rebuild this fall due to a spate of injuries. The Blue Devils ended up with seven of the last eight places at the 2012 Inter-Ac meet, coming away with 189 points.

After Hoey, the runners that put Malvern over the top were sophomore Billy McDevitt (fifth), freshman Colin Wills (10th), junior Dan Ferraiolo (11th), and sophomore Ryan Doane (13th).

Back in early September, Penn Charter lost its dual meet against GA by one point, and after that the Quakers went on to win all of their other Inter-Ac duals while also finishing first in the small schools division at the venerable Briarwood Invitational.

That meet has been run at Belmont Plateau for many years, but last week’s Inter-Ac event was a new arrival. The comprehensive overhaul of Springside Chestnut Hill Academy’s outdoor athletic facilities essentially eradicated the school’s old cross country course, which had been the venue for the league championships for many seasons.
PC, which runs its home duals at Belmont, certainly didn’t mind the change. Junior Scott Mason and sophomore Ben Szuhaj, who have been the front runners all season, led Charter at the championships, as well. Mason was sixth overall in 16:54.2 and Szuhaj was seventh in 17:06.6.

The other three scorers for the Quakers followed relatively close behind. Senior Etienne Dumas, who converted from soccer last year, was ninth in 17:12.2, and after him came juniors Hans Stedman (12th; 17:54.9) and Tre Williams (14th; 18:05.2). Charter’s sixth and seventh runners, both 11th graders, made it into the top two-dozen spots; Charlie Hoyt was 19th (18:26.7) and Geoff Zlobinsky was 24th (18:46.4).

Coming to the line in between Hoyt and Zlobinsky were the two Germantown Academy runners who rounded out the Patriots’ team score. Sophomore Josh Herman placed 20th (18:27.9) and senior Devin Cody was 23rd (18:45.6). The first finisher for SCH was senior Jordan Wang (better known as a wrestler for the Blue Devils), who landed 35th with a time of 20:12.8.

The top three teams, Malvern, PC, and GA, will hash it all out again this Saturday at the Pa. Independent School State Championships (also at Belmont), where a strong team from Germantown Friends School will be thrown into the mix.