by Tom Utescher
All-weather tracks dry out more quickly than grass playing fields, so while weather conditions haven’t been ideal for the last few weeks, the runners, jumpers, and throwers at Mount St. Joseph Academy have been able to get in more outdoor training than most of their spring sports counterparts.
Last year the Magic finished third at the AACA championships, behind champion Gwynedd Mercy and Villa Joseph Marie. Gwynedd should be tough again this season, since many of the Monarchs’ scorers at the 2014 meet were only sophomores.
Among Mount St. Joe’s graduation losses were a group of distance runners and a very versatile scorer, Sarah Lynch. Lynch easily won both the 100-meter high hurdles and the long jump at the AACA’s, and finished second in the 300-meter intermediate hurdles and the high jump.
The 2014 winner in the high jump, Maddie Reiche, is back for her senior season with the Magic. She finished fifth in the event at the Pennsylvania Indoor Championships back on March 1. Reiche is a team quad-captain this year, along with classmates Grace Havard, Aidan Moroz, and Kate Pensabene.
Their classmate Tara Gallagher is a middle distance runner who came from behind on the anchor leg to give the Magic a victory in the 4 x 800 relay at the 2014 league championships. The Mount’s top cross country runner, junior Julianna Kardish, was fourth in the 3200 meters at the AACA’s.
Right behind the graduated Lynch in last year’s intermediate hurdles (in third place) was current sophomore Julie Hoover. Hoover is also a jumper, and could figure into the longer sprint races, as well.
There were some other good sprinters in last year’s freshman class, too, such as Sarina Clary and Siobhan McBride (who also does the jumps).
Three other 10th graders who already made an impact last year in the throwing events are Sam Bauer, Grace Gelone (a Norwood-Fontbonne Academy graduate), and Kelly Gross.
Head coach Kitty McClernand says that a promising speedster in this year’s freshman fold is Grace Wallis, a member of the Mount’s varsity field hockey team last fall. The Mount’s mentor said that another carryover from field hockey, sophomore Ava Self, has produced some good preliminary times at longer distances.
“The team looks really well-balanced this year,” McClernand said. “We’ve even had a few girls who want to try the pole vault.”
Mount St. Joe does not have a pole vault pit, but a team parent was able to help line up a practice facility at a public high school.
Aside from the known quantities like Gwynedd Mercy, McClernand said it would be difficult to make predictions about outdoor track based on the results of the indoor season, since many schools have far fewer athletes participating in the sport during the winter months. At the Mount, for example, many members of the varsity and JV basketball teams have turned out for track this spring.
McClernand, who also heads the cross country program for the Magic, has a new member of the track staff who will be a great help in training the sprinters and hurdlers. This is veteran coach Clifton Smith, who won a series of Philadelphia Catholic League championships when he served as skipper of the girls’ team at the old Cardinal Dougherty High School.