by Tom Utescher
At the 2015 Inter-Ac League track and field championships last Saturday, the boys of Penn Charter repeated as meet runner-up, not to customary archrival Malvern Prep this time, but to Haverford School.
Gaining a 50-42 edge over the Quakers in the field events, the Fords added a few more points to their lead out on the track, building a winning total of 119 points to PC’s 107. A relatively major development in the historic meet, which has been held annually since 1887, was a departure from the old five-place scoring (six, four, three, two, one). Adapting the format used by the girls’ teams in the league, points were awarded for the top six places (ten, eight, six, four, two, one).
Meet host Malvern, which won in 2014 and was second to Charter the year before, slipped to third place last weekend. Lagging in the field events, with 25 points altogether, the Friars finished with 97, still far ahead of number four Episcopal Academy. Outperforming Germantown Academy in the fields sector, 26-10, EA acquired just enough points in the footraces to hold off the Patriots, 44-42. Springside Chestnut Hill was sixth, with 24 points.
In addition to taking home the team laurels, Haverford had Micah Sims repeat as the recipient of the George Greenwood Award, presented annually to the highest-scoring individual at the championships. The junior won the 200-meter dash (22.13 seconds) and the long jump (21’6.5”), and placed second in the 100 (11.02) and fourth in the triple jump (41’8.25”). He contributed 32 points toward his team’s total.
During the misty morning and midday hours, Penn Charter saw sophomore Akeem Blake win the high jump (6’3”) and place third in the triple jump (41’10.75”) and fourth in the long jump (20’11”). Another gold medal was furnished to the Quakers by junior Sean Foley in the shot put (46’3”).
Backing up Blake’s efforts in the high jump were junior Michael Berk in fourth place (6’0”) and senior Nick Scott in sixth (5’8”), while in the pole vault, senior Cole Liechty finished third (11’3”) and his classmate Henry McIlvaine was sixth (10’6”).
GA only had one athlete place in the field events, but at least it was first place. Sophomore Austin Takei elevated 11’9” to win the pole vault for the Pats.
As the action moved to the track, the sun eventually appeared and the atmosphere literally heated up. Here, Germantown Academy could rely on its outstanding state champion senior miler, Sam Ritz. He did not run the 1600, but in the 800 he pulled away from Malvern rival Billy McDevitt to win by two seconds in 1:55.59. In the 400, Ritz was running fourth halfway down the final straight, but churned up into second by the time he reached the finish line (50.13).
Episcopal’s Sam Pope won that race (49.06), and another senior, Malvern’s McDevitt, triumphed in both the 1600 (4:26.58) and the 3200 (9:46.74).
Ritz’s sophomore brother, Owen, placed sixth in the 1600 (4:33.58), and GA also snagged sixth place in the 800, thanks to junior Stephen Combs (2:01.46).
Germantown got third-place points from senior Josh Herman in the 3200 (10:04.66), where Penn Charter senior Ben Szuhaj edged ahead of Malvern’s McDevitt approaching the final turn. The Friars senior moved ahead again going around the bend, and Szuhaj landed in second (9:50.81). The PC harrier came in third in the 1600 (4:30.30).
Charter had senior Jamir Brown capture fourth place in both the 400 (50.65) and the 800 (2:00.29), but the Quakers’ real point jackpot on the track came in the two hurdling events. Here PC rang up 33 points, starting with a 100-meter final won by sophomore Dylan Burnett ((15.75) and featuring a third-place performance by Conrad Williams (16.58), a fifth-place finish by sophomore Jay Jennings (16.94) and a sixth-place showing for senior Alec Veznedaroglu (17.18).
In the 300 hurdles, Williams was second (41.04), Veznedaroglu was fourth (42.35), and Burnett was fifth (42.47). Even so, veteran PC mentor Steve Bonnie was hoping for a few more points in the longer race as his team chased Haverford in the point totals.
“The meet turned on those hurdles,” he said. “We’ve got the hurdlers, but that ninth-grader from Haverford, I give him credit for being a tough kid. He battled and came back and won it, and when he took those points away, things changed for us, because we couldn’t fight back in the 200.”
The Fords freshman hurdler Bonnie referred to was Sam Lindner, who pulled out a victory in the 300 in 40.92 seconds. That gave Haverford two points and subtracted them from PC’s tally, and the Quakers saw a few more potential points slip away when SCH senior Sam Grasso took third place (41.99), knocking Veznedaroglu and Burnett down in the order.
Usually sprinter-strong, PC hasn’t been very productive in the shortest footraces this spring. The Quakers did not score at all in the 100 and 200 dashes at the championships, and in the 200 final, near the end of the day’s schedule, Haverford officially clinched the meet victory as Sims’ victory was supplemented by a fifth and sixth-place finish by two of his teammates.
While Haverford had built a solid point foundation during the field events, where one of its wins came from Reggie Harris in the triple jump (45’0.75”), Springside Chestnut Hill put up two points in this portion of the meet. Coming in sixth for the Blue Devils were senior Payden Howard in the shot put (40’9.5”), and junior Bruce Howard (no relation) in the long jump (19’3”).
The Devils fared better on the track, where half of their points for the day were provided by senior sprinter Alex Mollick. In the 100-meter dash (won by Malvern’s Trevor Morris in 11.00 seconds), Mollick came in third (11.15), and he secured the same place in the 200 (22.41). Another six points were turned in by Grasso in the hurdles.
While Haverford had drawn away from Penn Charter at the head of the pack, the Quakers looked over their shoulders to see Malvern gaining on them. In the 3200, the last race before the concluding 4 x 400-meter relay, the Friars picked up 10 points with McDevitt’s victory along with four more points from Colin Wills’ fourth place finish. That allowed Malvern to draw even with PC on the leaderboard, 97-97.
The Quakers weren’t particularly worried, though. The relay hasn’t been one of Malvern’s strengths this year, and Charter would be running the same all-senior line-up that had placed second in the Inter-Ac division at the Penn Relays: Aaron Gardner, Sean Fitzgerald, Julian Johnson, and Brown as anchor.
After Haverford held a slim lead at the end of the first leg, PC zipped ahead in the second lap and went on to a comfortable win in a time of 3:28.04. The Fords were second in 3:31.20, and in a battle for third place GA (Stephen Combs, freshman Harrison Combs, sophomore Frank Koons, Sam Ritz) shaded SCH (junior Hunter Ferry, senior Phil Giovinazzo, sophomore Noah Chandler, Grasso) 3:32.47 to 3:32.86. Farther back were Episcopal, in fifth place, and Malvern, in sixth.