by Tom Utescher
At the Pennsylvania Track and Field Coaches Association’s 2015 Indoor Championships, teams from area schools with relatively small enrollments proved they could hold their own against the big boys (and girls) from all across the state. The gathering took place on March 1 in the wistfully-named Multi-Sport Facility at Penn State University.
Attracting some very talented performers to its girls program, Springside Chestnut Hill Academy was able to turn up at the PTFCA meet with just four female athletes and finish second in the team standings, ahead of dozens of large public high schools.
Team champion Cheltenham High finished ahead of the Blue Devils in the 4 x 200-meter relay (1:39.58 to 1:41.63), but SCH remained undefeated in-state this winter in the 4 x 400, topping the Panthers (3:52.33 to 3:53.00). The winning quartet was made up of (in race order) sophomore Terri Turner (the 2014 Pa. Independent Schools Cross Country champion), freshman Allie Kitchell, and juniors Julia Reeves and Brooklynn Broadwater.
Broadwater’s morning meal, half of a waffle and some orange juice, turned out to be a breakfast of champions.
“When I got up, I just felt – it’s going to be a good day,” she related.
She would anchor the 4 x 200 relay in addition to the 4 x 4, and individually she established two new personal records (indoor and outdoor) as she won the 200 and 400 meter dash.
The 400 has long been Broadwater’s specialty, and she had a good winter running the less familiar 200, where she had some top-three finishes. At Penn State, she was able to nip Pennridge High School’s Taylor Chapman for the victory, 24.52 seconds to 24.74.
“I didn’t know I could run the 200 that well,” she said. “I was a little nervous, but sort of confident at the same time.”
With the handclap of a coach or teammate simulating the starter’s pistol, Broadwater had been working on her starts during practice.
“I was definitely focusing on that, using the blocks, reacting to the sound, driving out fast,” she explained.
The pre-race ritual for the junior and her teammates is simple and traditional.
“We always pray before each and every one of our runs,” she said.
She would win the 400 by almost a full second over Avon Grove’s McKenna Keegan, with respective times of 54.73 and 55.62. Her time was the fifth-best run in the United States this winter. Her freshman teammate, Kitchell, finished ninth in 58.25.
“I think Allie could’ve done even better if she’d been in a faster heat,” commented SCH coach Maurice Broadwater (Brooklynn’s father).
Helping the Blue Devils take runner-up honors as a team was a fourth-place finish in the long jump by Reeves.
“That really made a difference,” Coach Broadwater said. “She was not favored to be in the top 10, and she had a very good day.”
Due to the weather conditions that night, SCH and many other teams elected to stay in State College and drive home on Monday.
“The girls slept all the way home,” the Devils’ skipper reported.
Germantown Academy senior Sam Ritz set a new Pennsylvania indoor record in the mile back in February, and then at Penn State he pushed the boundary once again, dropping the state standard to 4:09.56, a time which ranks fifth in the United States this winter.
Ritz turned in an excellent time of 1:51.79 in the 800 meter final. He finished third, but there was no shame in that, since the winner, Cheltenham senior John Lewis, hit a U.S. number-one time of 1:50.57. Ritz plans to follow his older brother Ben (GA ’13) to Columbia University, and he has two younger siblings coming up through the ranks at GA, Owen, a sophomore, and Danny, an eighth-grader.
Germantown Friends’ Sarah Walker, still only a junior, is a well-established standout in the 800-meter run. At the PTFCA meet, she battled a young rival that has emerged right out of Philadelphia’s Friends Schools League. This is Friends Central freshman Gabrielle Wilkinson, whose older sister Elyse was a talented middle distance runner at Penn Charter (Class of 2011).
The two were so close together at the finish that it took the better part of a minute to determine the winner as officials consulted the photo taken at the line. Wilkinson won by six thousandths of a second, 2:09.552 to 2:09.558; the rounded-up time of 2:09.56 accorded to both runners was a U.S. number-four.
“Sarah ran very well, but she couldn’t quite hold [Wilkinson] on the back stretch,” observed GFS coach Rob Hewitt. “Last year, though, Sarah struggled at this meet, and she’s made a lot of progress.”
Walker also performed the lead-off 1200-meter leg for the Tigers’ distance medley relay team, which finished sixth in 12:24.73. She was followed by seniors Taryn Milbourne (400), Greta Meyer (800), and Brigit Andersson (1600). Hewitt said that Germantown was leading in the middle of the race, but was passed by other teams later on.
GFS earned a fourth-place outcome in the boys’ DMR, and this quartet had also headed the field at one point. Junior Grayson Hepp led off, preceding seniors Giulian McFarland and Joe Newmann and sophomore Nick Dahl. The Tigers’ time was 10:27.31.
The 4 x 200 boys relay team from Springside Chestnut Hill finished eighth in its event with a time of 1:31.54, breaking the former school record by one-half second exactly. In race order were juniors Nick Rowland and Jordan Johnson, and seniors Phil Giovinazzo and Alex Mollick. Mollick also ran individually in the 200, coming in 12th in 22.64 and for another new school record. The old standard dated back to near the turn of the century.