by Tom Utescher

Springside Chestnut Hill Academy didn’t even have all the members of its 16-girl roster in attendance at the Wissahickon Relays last Saturday, but that didn’t stop the quick little Lions team from making a big impression. In the half-dozen events that it entered, the SCH squad finished either first or second out of a field of athletes from large suburban public schools.

The Lions won the 4 x 100, 4 x 200, 4 x 400 and 4 x 1600 meter relay races, and were runner-up in the 4 x 800 and the shot put.

For the Lions, the outing began with the longest and shortest races of the day. Freshman Jamie Costarino, who finished second at the Girls Inter-Ac League cross country championships last fall, led off the 4 x 1600 with a five-minute, 21-second split, and sophomore Sarah-Chen Ogorek and juniors Alyssa Issackman and Kelsea Brewer finished out the event for a winning time of 24:08.7. Meet host Wissahickon High School was second in 24:29.7.

POWER. CONFIDENCE. VICTORY. SCH sophomore Katelyn Jackson speeds down the home straight last Saturday on the anchor leg of the 4 x 200 meter relay. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

Four new Springside Chestnut Hill students combined to capture the laurels in the 4 x 100. On the first two legs were incoming freshmen Bridget Lipp and Kyra Jackson, who are also members of the Lions’ soccer and basketball teams, respectively. Next came two transfers, junior Drew Davis from Springfield High, and sophomore Katelyn Jackson (Kyra’s sister) from Cheltenham. Winning in 50.3 seconds, they topped the second-place Spartans (53.7) from Davis’ old school, Springfield.

One of the big draws for the numerically small SCH program is veteran coach Bob Shoudt, an Athletic Hall-of-Fame inductee in both Montgomery and Delaware counties. Among his many past protégés are former NFL player Billy “White Shoes” Johnson and All-American and Arizona State track star Tony Darden.

The team captain for the SCH Lions this spring is sprinter and shotputter Jamie McGinn, who is the only senior on the roster.

“It’s a different situation for me this year, because we have a lot of young girls, including some who just came into the school,” she said. “They’re learning the ropes as far as what we do as a team. At the beginning of indoor track it was a little rough, but by the time we got outdoors they had more confidence, and we’ve been coming together well.”

McGinn, who has signed to play soccer for Dominican University (a member of the same Division II conference as Chestnut Hill College), performed in the only field event the Lions entered at Wissahickon, the shot put. She and Kyra Jackson put up a combined tossing total of 54’0.5”, good for second place behind victorious Wissahickon (65’0”).

McGinn’s first race on the track had her in the second leg of the 4 x 200. Lipp led off and number three Davis set up a rousing anchor leg by Katelyn Jackson as SCH won in 1:46.6, ahead of Wissahickon (1:48.7). Wissy’s Trojans ran very well in the 4 x 800, landing first in 10:19.6 while SCH was second in 10:47.6 with the foursome of Costarino (2:26.8 split), Ogorek, Issackman, and Brewer.

At the big spring invitationals and even in their own Girls Inter-Ac League, the Lions almost always are going up against much larger teams, with much larger cheering sections.

“I tell them, don’t let it get to you; learn to block everyone out and run your own race,” McGinn said.

Saturday’s competition concluded for the SCH girls with the 4 x 400 relay, and McGinn said that before the race she told her young teammates “This is my last season ever for track, and I’ve been doing it since fourth grade. I told them I want to go out with a bang, and they came through and ran great.”

After handing off the baton, SCH senior Jamie McGinn (right) encourages Drew Davis (left) as the junior starts out on the next leg of a race at the Wissahickon Relays. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

As in the 4 x 200, Lipp and McGinn ran the first two legs of this four-lap race. Davis put the Lions in the lead during the third leg, fighting off a rival approaching the final exchange to send Katelyn Jackson out with an edge for the anchor leg. The sophomore shut the door on the opposition, helping SCH win in 4:08.20.

Wissahickon High, a close runner-up in 4:08.60, had been a gracious host, particularly for inviting the Lions to the meet in the first place. The event has traditionally been held for members of the Suburban One League’s American Conference, but the field was expanded to include SCH and Boys’ Latin, a five-year old Philadelphia charter school.

Although she’ll be moving on, McGinn is excited about the future prospects for Springside Chestnut Hill track.

“We’re really going to be coming on over the next couple of years,” she pointed out. “Everybody but me will be back, and there are also some good new girls coming in. I kind of sad I’m not going to be here to see it.”

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