by Tom Utescher
Running an unfamiliar event in a high-pressure situation last Thursday, Springside Chestnut Hill Academy’s Brooklynn Broadwater still managed to do what she almost always does – win. Relatively unchallenged in the third heat of the 400 meter hurdles championship at the 2015 Penn Relays, the Blue Devil junior paced herself to a time of one minute, 00.69 seconds, placing first in an overall field that included five elite athletes from Jamaica in a higher heat.
While many of her competitors at the Relays run the 400 hurdles routinely, high school athletes in this part of the country rarely do, engaging in either 100 or 300-meter versions. Even in those events, Broadwater lacks the experience of many of her rivals.
Trained primarily as a sprinter from a young age, she ran only three 400 hurdles races at club meets while she was in middle school. As a freshman at SCH, she was asked if she would try the 100 and 300 hurdles simply because her speed between the barriers made her the best prospect on the team.
Although she would be revisiting the 400-meter version at this year’s Penn Relays, she didn’t actually train at that distance.
Her father Maurice, a former head coach in the Philadelphia Catholic League and currently an assistant at SCH, helped prepare his daughter for the challenge awaiting her at Franklin Field.
“I would give her 300 and 200-meter intervals, and I would shorten her recovery time,” he related. “The purpose of not having her do the whole 400 meters was to not shock her. The 400 hurdles is very painful, and I didn’t want to put her off.”
Unknown in this particular event, she was assigned to the third section, where, without a real push from anyone in her race, she won by two-and-a-half seconds and eclipsed the higher-seeded athletes in the first two heats. The runner-up to Broadwater, by 0.11 second, was Junelle Bromfield of Santa Cruz, Jamaica, who back in March ran the second-fastest time in the world this year among junior (high school age) competitors. That was down in Kingston, though, and conditions were a little different at Franklin Field last Thursday, when it was unseasonably cold even for these parts.
“The weather slowed a lot of people down; you even saw it in the college times,” Maurice Broadwater said. “Brook’s time actually would’ve put her eighth with the college girls.”
SCH’s relay teams, which were among the best in the state in indoor competition this winter, have suffered from the loss of two athletes. One left the team, and the other, versatile and talented junior Julia Reeves, suffered a season-ending knee injury at Abington High School’s Jack Armstrong Invitational back on April 17.
The Blue Devils did manage to set a new school record in the 4 x 100 meter race, winning the 36th heat in 49.93 seconds. Allie Kitchell, Bridget Lipp and Essence Walden ran the first three legs and Broadwater anchored, and the quartet’s time ranked 24th overall out of the 376 foursomes that signed up. Germantown Friends (Portia McKoy, Taryn Milbourne, Taryn Barrett, Teasha McKoy) was second in its heat with a time of 51.27, which ranked the Tigers 56th in this huge field of teams.
The SCH boys, and those from Germantown Academy and Penn Charter, engaged in the traditional Inter-Ac League section of the 4 x 400 relay. Haverford School won in 3:26.01, while PC placed second in 3:30.23 thanks to Aaron Gardner, Sean Fitzgerald, Julian Johnson, and Jamir Brown. The Quakers had to battle for the runner-up spot, since the foursomes for SCH and GA finished with 3:30 times, as well.
At 3:30.37, the Blue Devils were third with Hunter Ferry, Phil Giovinazzo, Sam Grasso, and Alex Mollick, while GA’s Kyle Garland, Stephen Combs, Alejandro Gonzalez, and Sam Ritz were fourth in 3:30.71. A little farther back were the quartets from Episcopal Academy (3:33.47) and Malvern Prep (3:37.25).
Ritz, who ran the fastest split in the race at 50.10 seconds, also excelled on his own. The senior snagged fourth place in the mile run championship in 4:09.94, and here the difference between fourth and second place was just 0.33 seconds.
The largest concentration of runners from area schools came in what was deemed the “Philadelphia Academic” section of the girls 4 x 400 relay, which featured foursomes from Germantown Academy, Germantown Friends, Mount St. Joseph, Penn Charter, and SCH.
The Mount’s league rival, Gwynedd Mercy Academy, won the event with a time of 3:58.14, and Germantown Friends was second in 4:06.77 with a crew consisting of Imani Ross, Milbourne, Brigit Andersson, and Sarah Walker. Walker ran an outstanding anchor leg timed at 56.16 seconds.
Sandwiched between third-place Academy of Notre Dame (4:07.27) and number five Episcopal (4:08.34) was Germantown Friends’ chief Friends League rival, Friends Central (4:07.32).
Springside was next, placing sixth in 4:10.50 courtesy of Lipp, Kitchell, Haley Unthank, and Broadwater. In addition to Gwynedd, the Mount Magic saw two other Catholic Academies teams cross the line ahead of them. Nazareth Academy and Villa Joseph Marie came in seventh and eighth before the Mount’s Aidan Moroz, Julie Hoover, Ava Self, and Grace DiGiovanni arrived in ninth place in 4:15.13.
Next came GA, 10th in 4:16.02 with a combo consisting of Shayne Cerebe, Maggie Hallahan, Abbe Goldstein, and Kelsey O’Hara. Making up the PC Quakers’ quartet were Emily Smith, Caroline Brady, Felicia Robinson, and Alex Kuper. They placed 17th in 4:41.97.
The GFS Tigers made the top 10 in the girls 4 x 800, netting that 10th spot with a time of 9:45.50 that was produced by Andersson, Alice Wistar, Helen Ruger, and Walker.
As with the girls, even the “Small Schools” division of the boys 4 x 100 accommodated well over 300 entries. Here, GFS had Giulian McFarland, Julian Dorsey, Isaac Myran, and Ahshar Williams clock in at 44.81, which won them the 15th heat and put them 62nd overall on time.
Dorsey also appeared in the 4 x 400, anchoring for the Tigers ahead of Grayson Hepp, Nick Dahl, and Eli Schwemler (a Norwood Fontbonne Academy graduate). GFS came in seventh, in 3:36.05.