by Tom Utescher

PHOTO CAPTION - Starting out the longest race of the day, the 3200 meter run, are (from left) Penn Charter junior Shi Kuang, Springside junior Toni Hall, Penn Charter sophomore Ani Schug, and Springside junior Emily Davis. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

It was unusually early for an official league meet in track and field, and any third party trying to scout host Springside and visiting Penn Charter couldn’t have handed in a complete report. Wisely, both coaches treated the event more as a scrimmage, resting certain performers by holding them out of some of their best events, and experimenting with other athletes.

This didn’t alter the anticipated outcome, as defending Girls Inter-Ac champion Penn Charter, with 28 girls on the roster, logged an 81-46 victory over the Springside Lions, who had exactly half that number of athletes on hand.

“It was probably the first track meet anywhere in Pennsylvania,” observed Springside coach Bob Shoudt. “It was good for the girls to get out and have an actual meet to sort of see where they are. I thought the efforts were there, and improvement will come.”

University of Pittsburgh signee Taylor Ellis-Watson was coming off of an appearance at the New Balance Indoor Nationals the previous weekend, where she finished fifth overall with a time of 55.26 seconds. Shoudt held her out of the 400 last Thursday and entered her in some shorter sprints.

“Taylor had a good day, and so did Natalie Bates,” said the Lions skipper, speaking of a second senior standout who has committed to run at Lehigh University. “Natalie did a good job in the high jump, the long jump, and the 300 hurdles, which are events she’s never been in, at least not in high school.

“There were some pleasant surprises,” Shoudt went on. “Riley Tarver [another senior] ran very well in the sprints, and she threw herself into the mix as we put together our 4 x 100 team for the Penn Relays.”

Springside’s Ellis-Watson had to deal with injuries during both her sophomore and junior seasons, and Penn Charter’s Catie Skinner is just easing back into action after being diagnosed with a stress fracture at the end of cross country season last fall.

The PC sophomore won both the Girls Inter-Ac Championships and the PA Independent Schools meet, and Quakers coach Liz Fleming said, “Catie and Elise Wilkinson will obviously be the anchors of our distance program, but we also have some depth coming up behind them with Ani Schug and Rachel Morris, and we also have a senior hockey player, Anne Entwisle, who’s out for the team.”

Wilkinson, also a senior, has been a strong middle-distance performer throughout high school, and Schug, a sophomore cross country runner, won the 3200 meters at Thursday’s meet.

Fleming admitted that the Quakers are not as well-furnished in the sprinting department.

“We’ve graduated two strong classes of sprinters in a row,” she noted, “and we’re developing girls like Lauren Dimes, who’s a freshman, and [junior] Marisa Shepard, who is also a pole vaulter.”

Off the track, Fleming is happy to have Penn-bound senior Colleen Fehm, a sort of Swiss Army knife for Charter in the field events.

“Colleen is looking great,” the PC mentor said. “Today she went two feet longer than her previous best in the long jump, and she’s gone eight feet in the pole vault and 35 feet in the triple jump. She can go at least 5’2” in the high jump, and [senior] Amma Ntoso should be right there with her getting points in the long and the triple. Amma will also be a strong hurdler for us.”

Both teams are looking for some points to come out of the shot put; Springside from juniors Jamie McGinn and Ashlee Hale, and Penn Charter from senior Heather Jones, junior Saagarika Thanvi, and sophomore Ashley Brown.

Strolling away from the track and enjoying Thursday’s decidedly spring-like weather, the Lions’ Shoudt noted, “We have a few young girls who have never been in a varsity meet before, so it was a beautiful day for them to get out and see what it’s like.”

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