by Tom Utescher
Two years ago there was snow on the course at Belmont Plateau, and last year the region was waiting for “Sandy” to storm onto the scene. Last Saturday at the 2013 Pa. Independent Schools championships, there was nothing but sunshine and comfortably cool temperatures.
There were certainly no clouds on the horizon for Malvern Prep fans, who saw their Friars put all five of their scoring runners in the top 10 places to earn a convincing victory over repeat runner-up Penn Charter, 29-62.
Germantown Friends, which had won the boys’ title at the Indy Schools meet for seven years in a row, was third this year with 71 points, still far ahead of number four Episcopal Academy, with its total of 137.
Springside Chestnut Hill Academy came in 14th with 387 points, and this at least allowed the Blue Devils to finish ahead of two teams, Solebury School (446) and Shipley (465).
GFS coach Rob Hewitt, who saw his team’s long string of victories at the meet came to an end, stated “Malvern was clearly the best team in the meet this year. They ran well and the championship was well deserved. Even if all of our guys had done everything perfectly it wouldn’t have mattered against them, although I think that if we’d run to our potential we would’ve finished second.”
The teams from the Inter-Ac League had raced in their own championship meet at the beginning of the week, assembling at Belmont Plateau on Monday afternoon. In a head-to-head meeting in early September, Penn Charter had hung fairly close to Malvern, succumbing 22-33, but at the Inter-Ac race the Friars took it up a couple notches to easily capture their third straight title.
Here the overall victor was Sam Ritz, a Germantown Academy junior who crossed the line in 16 minutes and 2.9 seconds. Close behind him, Malvern sophomore Jaxson Hoey earned runner-up honors (16::04.6) and led a procession of five Friars who all finished in the top seven. That gave them a team score of 24 points, while the Quakers were second with 49 and number three Episcopal was even farther back from there, ringing up 89 points.
The standard bearer for Charter was senior Scott Mason, who took third place in 16:44.3, and the other PC scorers were seniors Tre Williams (eighth in 17:20.5) and Hans Stedman (ninth in 17:21.8), junior Ben Szuhaj (11th; 17:26.5), and senior Charlie Hoyt (18th; 18:33.6).
Szuhaj, the reigning Independent Schools champ in the 3200 meters on the track, missed most of the cross country season due to injury, returning just in time for the Inter-Ac championships. Head coach Tony Farrell said that Szuhaj began training again two weeks before the league meet.
The GA Patriots weren’t able to capitalize on Ritz’s individual victory. Their next runner, fellow junior Josh Herman, was the only other member of the team within the two two-dozen, coming in 14th in 17:50.0. The Pats and Haverford School both scored 107 points, and the ‘Fords came in fourth based on the time split between their first and fifth finishers. Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, led by sophomore Will Concannon (22nd; 19:03.4), was the sixth-place team, with 176 points.
At the Indy Schools championships five days later, GA’s Ritz and Malvern’s Hoey once again dueled for top individual honors. This time, Hoey’s face reflected his effort as he made a furious push at the end to maintain a few meters’ lead over the last 100 meters, winning in 16:03.3 while Ritz was runner-up in 16:04.7. As at the Inter-Ac’s, PC’s Mason was third, producing a time of 16:28.5 as he crossed the line alone, with Billy McDevitt of Malvern some distance behind for a fourth-place finish in 16:43.2.
GFS senior James Finney injured his ankle earlier in the month and was forced to forego the Friends Schools League championships on October 15. Led by freshman Nick Dahl, the Tigers still were able to overwhelm their peers to capture their 12th straight title.
Finney returned for last weekend’s race, but was nowhere near his usual form. Dahl once again spearheaded the GFS effort, placing fifth overall in 17:00.1.
“This kid ran the heck out of it and had a nice PR,” Coach Hewitt remarked.
With two runners in the first five, Malvern had not yet sealed the deal, but fellow Friars filled three of the next five places.
Brendan Stec and teammate Colin Wills were sandwiched around seventh-place Gabriel Allgayer of Mercersburg Academy, and PC’s Williams became the second Quaker across the line, positioned ninth in 17:09.0. Malvern’s Ryan Doane rounded out both the top 10 in the race, and also the team score of 29 for the victorious Friars.
Next was the number two man for Germantown Friends, sophomore Grayson Hepp (11th; 17:20.2), and after that PC strengthened its position with back-to-back finishes for Szuhaj (12th; 17:22.7) and Stedman (13th; 17:25.2).
The other scorers soon arrived for the Tigers: sophomore Gordon Goldstein (16th; 17:31.9), Finney (18th; 17:34.6) and junior Joe Newmann (21st; 17:43.5). Number six Andy Bugos, a senior, was not far out of scoring contention with his 23rd-place showing (18:01.8). However, Charter had enough of an edge that when Hoyt pulled up in 18:07.1 and added 25th place to the Quakers’ score, it was enough to secure second place in the team tally.
The top runner for SCH was sophomore Will Concannon, who was 48th overall in 19:06.5. The other scorers for the Blue Devils were sophomore Robert Hass (71st), freshman Hudson Smith (82nd), senior Harrison Tray (86th), and freshman Tim Kerbel (106th).
Although Malvern returns almost all of its top talent for next year, a look at the boys’ JV race results has to be encouraging for fans of the GFS Tigers. Led by sophomore winner Calvin McCafferty, with a lifetime best of 18:09.9, Germantown Friends positioned all five scorers among the top seven spots, and snagged ninth place as well.
“I don’t like that old cliché about a rebuilding year,” said the Tigers’ Hewitt. “I think of this just as a young developing team that’s trying to learn. What I hope they learned from Malvern is how much hard work you have to put in to win. Our young boys came along having seen our team win year after year, but I think now they’ll have a better idea of what went into that.”