by Tom Utescher

As in seasons past, Germantown Friends’ undefeated sweep through its 2013 regular-season meets in the Friends Schools League foretold the outcome of the league championships, which were staged last Tuesday at Belmont Plateau. For the 12th year in a row, both the boys’ and girls’ teams returned from the familiar course in Fairmount Park with FSL titles.

In a rare occurrence for a league-wide race, the GFS boys shutout the other seven squads, taking the first seven places for a total of 15 points, while the closest rival, Westtown School, scored 71.

The girls’ margin of victory was not as overwhelming, but the contest was still no nailbiter for Tigers fans, who saw all five scorers squeeze in among the top nine finishers.

Germantown topped second-place Friends Central, 30-50, while George School, whose lead runner claimed the individual victory, wound up third with 66 points.

“We did what we set out to do, but to be honest, I would consider it a sub-par performance for both teams,” said GFS head coach Rob Hewitt. “We were off on Monday for Columbus Day, and there was no school the day of the race because there was an in-service day. Having structure to the day is important for high school kids, and not being in class for four days in a row, they didn’t have their usual level of concentration.

“If we were off our game,” he continued, “at least it wasn’t the worst time for it to happen. We can turn it into a positive if it helps us refocus for the Pa. Independent Schools championships next weekend.”

The Indy schools meet will be held this Saturday, also at Belmont Plateau, where the Germantown Friends boys will be seeking their eighth straight championship, and the girls will be going for three in a row.

For last week’s FSL event, senior standout James Finney was sidelined with an ankle injury. This left the door open for rising star Nick Dahl, a Tigers freshman, to take top honors in the boys’ race with a winning time of 17 minutes, 39.2 seconds. He left the main pack to pursue early leader Carlos Price-Sanchez of Friends Central, and later, when the FC senior tripped and fell and was forced to drop out of the race, Dahl cruised to victory.

“It was great to see a freshman make a decision like that out on the course, and then back it up,” Hewitt said. “He’s got a real racer’s mentality, and he’s got a lot of potential.”

While the ninth-grader was running alone at the end, the other Tigers were more closely spaced at the finish, with the runner-up spot taken by sophomore Gordon Goldstein (18:15.8) and third and fourth place going to a pair of juniors, Peter Jarka-Sellers (18:23.2) and Joe Newmann (18:31.2).

The only senior in the group, Andy Bugos, rounded out the official team score as he crossed the line in fifth position in a time of 18:34.9. Two sophomores, Calvin McCafferty (18:42.2) and Grayson Hepp (18:48.3), secured the sixth and seventh places overall.

Eventually a runner wearing something other than a GFS singlet showed up. It was Friends Central senior Nick Murdock, placing eighth in 19:14.1. Behind him, three Westtown School athletes snapped up the next three places to lay the foundation for their team’s second-place result.

In the girls’ competition, the fourth-place finisher from 2012, current sophomore Jerrica Bauer of George School, won convincingly over Friends Central 10th-grader Annie Kennedy, with respective times of 19:57.6 and 20:34.0. However, whatever team aspirations the Cougars and Phoenix may have had diminished as young women from GFS captured five of the next seven spots.

In her last league event, senior Alison Love led the procession of Tigers, landing in third place overall in 20:57.7, and close behind, at 21:00.1, was junior Arielle Frank. Friends Central slipped junior Hannah Szapary into the fifth spot with her time of 21:05.3, and exactly three seconds later Tigers sophomore Alice Wistar nailed down sixth place.

The next three finishers went into the chute within a four-second span, first senior Abby Harrison of George School (7th; 21:15.5), then the last two scorers for Germantown Friends, sophomore Caitlin Harrity (8th; 21:18.4) and freshman Griffin Kaulbach (9th; 22:19.2).

The sixth finisher for the Tigers, senior Cece Dye, came in 11th in 22:49.6, one place behind the number three runner for Friends Central.