Running in the main pack at the Inter-Ac championships are (from left) GA sophomore Jackie DeRusso, PC senior McKenna Krall and SCH senior Nicole Novo. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

Running in the main pack at the Inter-Ac championships are (from left) GA sophomore Jackie DeRusso, PC senior McKenna Krall and SCH senior Nicole Novo. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

One day after Chestnut Hill College sophomore Giancarlo Martines won the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference meet at Belmont Plateau in 27:08.6 (for eight kilometers), the Fairmount Park course was the venue for the 2015 Inter-Ac League Cross Country Championships on October 26.

There wasn’t a lot of drama at the finish line as the first runners arrived at the end of five-kilometer high school course. Malvern Prep senior Colin Wills won the boys’ race by 26 seconds over Episcopal Academy junior Jakob Jorgensen, and on the girls’ side the only runner within a minute-and-a-half of Germantown Academy junior Abbe Goldstein was her own Patriots teammate, senior Maggie Hallahan.

However, adding up the team scores became a pulse-quickening process, especially for the girls. After the two GA finishers initially put the Patriots in a strong position, the Academy of Notre Dame had all of its first four girls arrive among the top 11. The Irish wrapped up their scoring with a 17th-place performance, and were able to eke out a 47-48 victory for the championship over the Patriots, who scored with runners in 12th, 15th and 18th place.

A time of 18:55.30 earned a third straight individual championship for Goldstein, whose Patriots had finished third as a team in 2014. Last year’s meet had also featured a close battle for the team title, as Episcopal shaded Agnes Irwin by two points. This time the Owls got the better of the EA Churchwomen, claiming third place with 86 points, 10 ahead of Episcopal.

Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, led by junior Rebecca Saunders with a seventh-place showing in 20:56.10, landed in fifth with 125 points, while Penn Charter senior McKenna Krall came in 13th at 21:53.30, helping the Quakers beat out Baldwin School, 138-145.

The boys teams had battled through a number of very close dual meets during the regular season, but there was more space between the squads at the championships. Jorgenson’s Episcopal outfit produced 52 points to take the title with a nine-point margin over Wills’ Malvern team (61), which had come in as the four-time defending champion.

Finishing third behind these two Main Line runners was GA junior Owen Ritz (17:32.70), whose older brother Sam (now a freshman at Columbia) won the individual title in 2013 and 2014. The Patriots, with 85 points, came in fourth in the team standings behind Haverford School, which had 77.

The weather at the championships was warmer than average for the date, which may have helped account for relatively slow times across the board.

Penn Charter, which had beaten both GA and Malvern during the dual meet campaign and had very close losses to Haverford and Episcopal, placed fifth at the championships with 104 points. The first Quaker across the line was senior Tom Freitag, who netted sixth place in 17:59.20.

SCH got two runners into the top 10 at the Inter-Ac meet, senior Will Concannon (fifth; 17:58.90) and junior Noah Chandler (eighth; 18:06.40).

The Blue Devils faded out after that, though, and wound up in sixth place with 120 points. Despite the team result, longtime SCH coach Paul Hines was encouraged to see two Blue Devils runners in the top 10 for the first time since the 2010 season.

Unlike the standouts from that era, Michael Fuery (’11) and Dustin Wilson (’12), Concannon and Chandler weren’t already attracting attention in eighth and ninth grade.

In the Inter-Ac boys varsity race, SCH senior Will Concannon (center) got to the finish line ahead of PC senior Tom Freitag (left) and GA junior Peter Butler. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

In the Inter-Ac boys varsity race, SCH senior Will Concannon (center) got to the finish line ahead of PC senior Tom Freitag (left) and GA junior Peter Butler. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

“Will has been my number one for three years, but he didn’t really have a talented, experienced older guy on the team to learn from,” said Hines. “He sort of had to figure it out by himself. Noah Chandler was a baseball player who tried cross country when he was a sophomore. He did well and liked running, so he switched from baseball to track last spring.”

Concannon worked hard for his fifth-place Inter-Ac finish, winning a three-man sprint to the line over PC’s Freitag and GA junior Peter Butler, who placed seventh in 18:01.20. After Chandler secured the eighth spot, the top 10 was completed by junior Jack O’Connell of Episcopal (18:09.30) and senior Anthony Ciro of Malvern (18:11.40).

Penn Charter junior Harper Pollio-Barbee took 12th place in 18:22.0, but the Quakers didn’t get their next man to the line until 23rd place.

On the girls side, three-time champion Goldstein of GA found that winning the individual title never gets old.

“It’s always exciting,” she said.

Prior to the Inter-Ac meet, she reported, “We’d been doing some more tempo and interval workouts. We were doing some training within the woods loop on our course, and that has some hills, which helps with the hills at Belmont. I think just being consistent with the workouts is important.”

She ran alone for much of the race at the 2014 championships, but this time she had company from teammate Hallahan, who would come in second with a time of 19:12.00.

“Maggie was with me most of the way,” Goldstein said, “and it was definitely helpful to have her there. It was a lot of fun when we came out of the woods [where there is less than a mile remaining in the race] together and everybody was going crazy.”

The third place runner, Agnes Irwin freshman Sanaiya Watts, was almost a minute-and-a-half behind Hallahan, at 20:37.10, and another ninth-grader, Episcopal’s Caitlin Jorgesen, was fourth in 20:52.00. She was just three-tenths of a second ahead of the first Notre Dame finisher, senior Mikayla Schneider. The Irish also took sixth and eighth place, bracketing SCH’s Saunders.

Notre Dame rounded out its team score by collecting 11th and 17th place, while GA had senior Jill Silverman 12th in 21:36.70, sophomore Jackie DeRusso 15th in 22:10.90, and fellow 10th-grader Kelsey O’Hara 18th in 22:20.70.

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