Germantown Academy junior Ben Ritz (right) raises his arms in jubilation as he wins the inaugural Philadelphia Showcase Mile. SCH senior Dustin Wilson (left) was the runner-up. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

Every 2012 league title had been determined, and both the public and independent school state championship meets were over, but last Friday afternoon a group of the area’s top distance runners got together on the Germantown Academy track to literally go the extra mile.

GA coach Pete Jennings, Springside Chestnut Hill Academy coach Paul Hines, and Germantown Friends School skipper Rob Hewitt had helped pull together the first edition of what they initially called the “Philadelphia Area Showcase Mile.”

Germantown Academy junior Ben Ritz avenged a close loss to Springside Chestnut Hill Academy senior Dustin Wilson in the Inter-Ac League 1600 meter finals, winning the race in four minutes, 12.76 seconds to establish a new personal best and shatter the GA school record by seven seconds.

Wilson (4:14.00), who will attend Columbia University, has won the 1600 and 3200 meter titles in the Inter-Ac League three years in a row, and last fall he finished 13th at the Footlocker Cross Country Nationals. Winning a sprint for third place, in 4:17.60, was Hatboro Horsham High School senior Sam Hibbs, who had captured the PIAA Class AAA (large school) state championship in the 3200 meters the previous weekend. Next in the star-studded cast came another upperclassman, Hill School’s Quinn Davis, the cross country and 1600 and 3200 meter champion in the Mid-Atlantic Prep League, and winner of the 1600 at the 2012 Pa. Independent Schools championship meet.

Hibbs is headed to Liberty University in Virginia, and Davis (4th in 4:17.76) will run for St. Joseph’s University, where he’ll be a teammate of Germantown Friends senior Tess Doggett, who ran in a co-ed 1600 at last Friday’s showcase.

Fifth and sixth in the seeded 1600 were GFS juniors Lyle Wistar (4:18.31) and Sami Aziz (4:21.96), this year’s Friends Schools League champions in the 3200 and 1600 meters, respectively. Aziz had finished just a fraction of a second behind Hill’s Davis in the Indy Schools 1600.

Seventh place at the showcase went to Ben Ritz’s brother Sam, a Germantown Academy ninth-grader. In early May the younger Ritz ran 4:28 in the 1600 meters at the Puma/West Chester Henderson Invitational meet, which, up to that point, was the fastest freshman mile run in the state this spring. The quick company at Friday’s meet spurred him on to even greater efforts, and a time of 4:22.48.

Three more Germantown Friends runners rounded out the 10-man field. Senior Kyle Musto and sophomore James Finney had given the Tigers a one-two finish in the 800 meters at the FSL championships, and senior Christian Brady is the reigning cross country champion in the Friends League. On Friday Finney was eighth in 4:33.70, Musto was ninth in 4:52.40, and Brady came in 10th in 5:00.49.

Hatboro Horsham’s Hibbs, who had run only the 3200 meters in the PIAA district and state meets, knew he’d have to raise his pace for Friday’s 1600 and he went out aggressively. At the end of the first lap he led Aziz of GFS by one meter, and a step behind Aziz, Wilson and Wistar were side by side, followed by Ben Ritz and Hill School’s Davis.

The next time past the timing stand it was Wilson, Aziz, Hibbs, then Wistar and Davis together, and right after them, Ritz, who was making sure he was in position to move up on the outside. The GA junior attacked during the third circuit, pulling up to Wilson at the end of that lap and then moving by him going around the near turn.

Falling a few meters behind along the first section of the back straight, Wilson made up the gap as the leaders went into the far turn, appearing to set up a finish similar to his victory at the Inter-Ac meet. This time though, Ritz had a substantial kick left in him, and down the stretch he separated from the SCH senior once more.

Hibbs had fallen back to fifth by the end of the third lap, but in the final 400 he moved by Wistar of GFS and then beat Davis to the finish line.

Just before this race, there was a coed competition in which male and female milers, most of them from Germantown Friends, took the track together. Henry Blood, who actually graduated from GFS in 2011, won in 4:35.14, and the runner-up was the lone Penn Charter athlete at the entire affair, freshman Ben Szuhaj (4:36.95).

Tigers senior Nick Dye (4:42.98) and junior Henry Shah (4:43.79) were third and fourth, and the first two girls across the line were a pair of GFS seniors, St. Joe’s recruit Doggett (5:08.21 – eighth overall) and Carey Celata (5:13.59 – 10th overall). Their 11th-grade teammate, Eliza Lukens-Day, was the third female finisher and 12th overall in 5:23.58, and right behind her was the lone Germantown Academy entry, junior Maddie Stambaugh (5:37.06).

The coaches who helped organize Friday’s eclectic meet plan to make it an annual event, expanding the race program and proceeding under the title of the Philadelphia Area Invitational.

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