by Tom Utescher
As is their custom, Penn Charter and Springside Chestnut Hill Academy met for an early boys’ track and field scrimmage last Friday afternoon on the all-weather circuit at SCH’s Maguire Stadium.
There wasn’t much insight to be gained as to how the Quakers and Blue Devils will match up in their official dual meet later on, since some key performers for each team were not in attendance. Among the missing for PC was senior Ben Szuhaj, the defending Inter-Ac champion in the 3200 meters. Even without a truly challenging rival, SCH sophomore Noah Chandler ran a disciplined two-mile and won the event easily on Friday.
Where SCH was lacking was in the shortest races. Four sprinters, juniors Nick Rowland and Jordan Johnson and seniors Phil Giovinazzo and Alex Mollick, had already headed up to New York City to perform in the 4 x 200-meter relay at the New Balance® Indoor Nationals [see separate article].
Blue Devils mentor Paul Hines was up the Big Apple along with this foursome, but another veteran head coach, Penn Charter’s Steve Bonnie, was on hand to offer his thoughts about his own team and the make-up of the league for the 2015 season.
No fewer than 27 members of last year’s Quakers squad graduated, including speedster James Biggs-Frazier, who won the 100-meter dash at the Inter-Ac League championships and was runner-up by a hundredth of a second in the 300 intermediate hurdles. Middle-distance and relay stalwarts Charlie Hoyt and Tre Williams also dashed off with their diplomas (Hoyt was second in the 400 at the league meet).
Two other members of their class, Gavin Hatfield and Drew Pierce, went two-three in the pole vault for PC at the Inter-Acs in 2014.
“We lost a lot of horses, a lot of points,” Bonnie admitted. “Our hurdlers aren’t bad. Our sprinters are young and they’re not fast yet, so we’ve got to work on that. We’ve got a few quarter-milers, but not a 49-second guy like Daryl Worley (’13). We have a bunch of 51, 52-second kind of guys.”
PC’s Jamir Brown, now a senior, is a middle-distance runner who earned All-Inter-Ac honors in 2014. In the field events, the Quakers return high jumper Akeem Blake, who leapt to third place in the league last year while still only a freshman. Bonnie feels he’ll get some points from junior Cole Liechty in the pole vault.
“He’ll do 10’6” all day, and we’ll see if we can get him to 12 feet,” said the PC skipper, who added that he has a good shot put prospect in sophomore Sean Foley.
As a team, Penn Charter finished as Inter-Ac runner-up to Malvern Prep last season, but Bonnie cautioned, “I don’t think we have the depth some of the other schools this year; we’ll need to pick up every point we can wherever we can.”
Eying up the opposition, Charter’s coach observed “SCH has the sprinters, and Malvern just has a lot of horses overall. Haverford is really strong and they’ll have a shot at it. They have the jumpers, they have distance guys, and just a lot of athletic kids.”
He predicted, “I think you’ll see a depressed score [at the championships] this year; I can’t see anybody getting 75 or 80 points. It’ll be spread around, because even the teams that may not be able to win it have guys who can chip away at the points. I think 50-plus could win it, and I think 55 or 60 will absolutely win it.”