by Tom Utescher
Germantown Friends finished second by six points at the Pennsylvania Independent Schools cross country championships on October 25, while Germantown Academy senior Sam Ritz captured his second individual title in six days on the Belmont Plateau course in Fairmount Park.
Ritz won the Saturday afternoon event in 16:01.2 after taking top honors at the Inter-Ac League championship the previous Monday, when he was timed in 16:00.3. His GA squad was fourth in the team standings with 161 points, three points behind third place Haverford School.
These teams still lagged well behind the top two in overall performance. Malvern Prep, an overwhelming winner in 2013, retained its title in a much closer race this year, topping the GFS Tigers, 48-54.
“I was proud of our boys – I don’t think a lot of people expected Malvern to be challenged,” remarked GFS head coach Rob Hewitt.
With junior Gordy Goldstein out of action, Hewitt had to bring up a JV runner to fill out his varsity seven. Malvern, meanwhile, suffered a loss that would have devastated a team without the Friars’ large talent pool and impressive depth. Junior Jaxson Hoey, the defending individual champion for the PAIS meet, had been sidelined by a stress fracture.
Penn Charter, which was been the runner-up team to Malvern at the Inter-Ac meet, finished sixth in the field of 17 schools at the Indy Schools event, scoring 173 points to land one place behind Mercersburg Academy (164 points). In 13th place with 285 points, Springside Chestnut Hill Academy was just two points off the pace of number 12 Kiski School, which is located about 35 miles east of Pittsburgh.
For GA’s Ritz, winning the Inter-Ac and PAIS titles was a satisfying “double” near the end of his high school career.
“It’s something I certainly felt capable of doing, and it’s a nice accomplishment,” he said.
Winning the PAIS meet by a little over 10 seconds, the Patriots senior didn’t have much cause to look behind him, but in a figurative sense, he was looking forward.
He’s planning to run in the Northeast regional championships near the end of November, and he noted, “I know how fast those guys typically go out, and that’s what I’m preparing myself for right now.”
For college, he’s setting his sights on Columbia University, where his brother Ben is a sophomore on the X-C squad, and where Springside Chestnut Hill grad Dustin Wilson (the 2011 PAIS champion) is a junior.
After Ritz won the race at Belmont on October 25, Malvern took second and third thanks to Jaxson Hoey’s freshman brother, Josh (16:11.7), and senior Billy McDevitt (16:16.3).
The first Germantown Friends finisher, and fourth overall, was sophomore Nick Dahl, clocked in at 16:29.4. The fifth-place man at the event as a freshman, Dahl managed to take half-a-minute off his 2013 time this year, despite a serious mishap out on the course.
“About 400 meters into the race, he was tripped,” Hewitt reported. “He did a full barrel roll, and got stepped on. He’s got puncture marks made by the spikes on his chest. It was pretty gutsy the way he hung in there.”
The Tigers, who last won the meet in 2012, had two other runners in the top 10, senior Joe Newman (eighth; 17:11.4) and junior Grayson Hepp (ninth; 17:14.8). GA’s number two man, senior Josh Herman, was sixth in 16:53.1. The first man to the line for Penn Charter was senior Ben Szuhaj, who placed 11th in 17:19.5, and finishing together in 19th and 20th place were Springside Chestnut Hill junior Will Concannon (18:00.2) and sophomore Noah Chandler (18:00.3).
After taking second and third place, Malvern went on to win the meet by placing its other three scorers 10th, 12th, and 21st. The fourth and fifth scorers for GFS were senior Peter Jarka-Sellers (15th; 17:44.8) and freshman Zach Goldberg (18th; 17:53.7). The sixth and seventh runners for the Tigers were sophomore Daniel Stassen (24th; 18:13.7) and junior Zach Schwartz (47th; 19:16.7).
Germantown Academy had a second Ritz in the race; Sam’s brother Owen, a sophomore, was the third finisher for the Patriots and was 43rd overall in 19:08.3. Senior teammate Carter Seggev was 51st in 19:23.1, and the fifth scorer, senior LeRoy Moser, came in 63rd in 19:42.1. Due to the displacement process in team scoring, these last three GA scorers earned their team 42, 50, and 62 points, respectively.
Following Szuhaj for Penn Charter were two runners in the 20’s; junior Tom Freitag placed 22nd in 18:02.1, and sophomore Harper Pollio-Barbee was 27th in 18:29.2. The other scorers for the Quakers finished just over a second apart in 57th and 58th place, with junior Blaise Ciarrocchi timed in 19:34.1, and sophomore Josh Patton arriving in 19:35.4. Scoring displacement bumped up Ciarrocchi and Patton one point apiece.
After the first two SCH runners made it into the top 20, the next Blue Devil who hove into view was junior Robert Hass, whose time of 20:19.7 garnered him 71st place. A few ticks behind was sophomore Jamie Alden, 74th in 20:23.8, and the fifth man for SCH was freshman Tom Huggett, who ran 23:30.4 and placed 108th overall. In the team score tabulation, Hass, Alden, and Huggett were accorded 69, 72, and 105 points, respectively.
Back on October 14, Germantown Friends had won its 13th straight Friends Schools League championship, and even after the recent PAIS meet, the Tigers’ season was not over. They will attend one of the two major regional competitions held on Thanksgiving weekend, and part of their preparations will be a special tune-up race that will be held in mid-November at Henderson High School in West Chester.
After that, the Tigers can look forward to having many of their best performers return for the 2015 campaign. Hewitt praised efforts of two freshmen, Zach Goldberg, who scored for the varsity squad, and Colin Riley, who won the junior varsity race and helped the Tigers top Malvern for the JV team title.
“They both raised their level, and you couldn’t ask for more out of a freshman,” the Tigers’ mentor remarked.