by Tom Utescher
A small but talented field of runners showed up at the Germantown Academy track last Friday for a post-season scholastic event, the Philadelphia Area Invitational.
With official high school championships staged throughout May and with runners training for outdoor nationals in mid-June, elite runners have their schedules booked up and are torn between an increasing number of invitational meets on offer. There was not enough interest to go forward with a planned 3200 meter race at GA, so the action centered around the 800 and 1600 meter contests.
In the first heat of the 800, junior Brigit Andersson and sophomore Alice Wistar of Germantown Friends School were both very close to their personal record times, Anderson coming in third overall in two minutes, 20.31 seconds, while Wistar wound up one place behind in 2:25.51.
Tigers sophomore Sarah Walker, one week after hitting a PR that set a new 2014 state standard, ran in the lead along with GFS assistant coach Kelsey Rose during the first lap of the 800, then left the track. Another pacer, a bit farther back, was GFS head coach Rob Hewitt, who also performed the first 400 before stepping off into the infield grass.
Rose, a former St. Joseph’s University runner like Hewitt, won in two minutes, 14.02 seconds, and second in 2:17.49 was Owen J. Roberts High School senior Jill Weston, who is best known as a hurdler. A University of Kentucky signee, Weston won a 2014 PIAA District 1 gold medal in the 300 meter hurdles, where her time of 43.13 was the best in Pennsylvania this year.
Germantown Friends’ Andersson was just under three seconds behind, followed by Wistar.
Helping serve as a “rabbit” in the 1600 meter race was another member of the Tigers’ coaching staff, Phil Celona. He ran just ahead of Germantown Academy junior Sam Ritz, and after the older athlete dropped out halfway through, Ritz went on to win in 4:17.60. A few weeks earlier, the Patriots 11th-grader had run a slightly faster (4:16.85) at the 2014 Pennsylvania Independent Schools Championships, winning the gold medal and setting a new meet record.
Second in last Friday’s race was the 2014 Inter-Ac League 3200 meter champ, Penn Charter junior Ben Szuhaj. With a time of 4:26.37 at GA, Szuhaj took a tenth-of-a-second off his previous personal best for the 1600, and a new PR was also established by third-place Harper Pollio-Barbee, a PC freshman who finished in 4:55.63.
Fourth, in 5:03.23, was Sam Ritz’s ninth-grade sibling, Owen. The eldest of the Ritz brothers, Ben, just completed his freshman season at Columbia University while the youngest, Danny, is finishing up seventh grade at GA.