Germantown Academy sophomore Sam Ritz (Photos by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

Last Saturday, five area cross country teams converged on Fairmount Park’s Belmont Plateau, along with dozens of their peers, for the 22nd running of the Briarwood Invitational, one of the major annual meets in Southeastern Pennsylvania.

Penn Charter rang up a convincing team victory in the Division II Boys Varsity race, and Mount St. Joseph Academy was the top squad in the Division I Girls Varsity contest.

There were three different varsity-level races for both boys and girls, the Division I events for large-enrollment schools, Division II for smaller institutions, and “Championship” races for a selected group of elite teams, including some of the runners visiting from five neighboring states.

The premier individual times overall were a 15-minute 41.4-second effort by Brendan Shearn of North Schuylkill High School, and a time of 18:49.3 put up by Kara Steinke of Methacton High School. Both ran in the Championship divisions.

Penn Charter senior Catie Skinner was the runner-up in the girls Division II event, and the Quakers were fifth in the team standings. The Germantown Academy boys were entered in the Championship race, but senior number one Ben Ritz was away on a college visit. His sophomore brother, Sam, was 20th overall (16:49.3), and the Patriots placed 11th out of the 12 teams entered. Senior Max Huang-Hobbs was the next GA runner to finish, coming in 30th in 17:02.0.

One spot ahead in the team standings for that Championship category was La Salle High School, led by Jack Magee, the 23rd finisher overall. Another Philadelphia Catholic League squad, Cardinal O’Hara, won the team championship in convincing fashion, outscoring West Chester’s Henderson High School, the runner-up, 36-92.

Mount St. Joe senior Meredith Reiche.

GA aside, most of the Inter-Ac league teams were in the boys’ Division II race won by Charter, including Springside Chestnut Hill Academy. With the five-year career of superstar Dustin Wilson now at an end (he’s a freshman at Columbia University, the school GA’s Ben Ritz was visiting last weekend), SCH placed 14th in the field of 18, with 376 points.

The PC boys dominated with a team score of 38, while Malvern Prep was runner-up with 125 points and another Inter-Ac franchise, Episcopal Academy, was 10th with 226 points.

Malvern sophomore Billy McDevitt was the individual winner in 16 minutes, 37.8 seconds, and the Friars also captured second place. Third went to an athlete from Warminster’s Archbishop Wood, then Charter gave itself a big leg up in the team competition by crossing its first three runners in succession.

Junior Scott Mason (4th; 17:01.9) was followed by senior Etienne Dumas (5th; 17:10.2) and sophomore Ben Szuhaj (6th; 17:12.0), with Szuhaj beating out Episcopal lead runner Steve Lucey by six tenths of a second.

Rounding out the scoring for the victorious Quakers were two juniors, Tre Williams (10th; 17:34.5) and Charlie Hoyt (13th; 17:41.8).

SCH’s first finisher, junior Graham Allen, arrived in 33rd place with a time of 18:26.7. The other Blue Devil scorers were sophomore Ben Dlin (80th; 20:05.4), and seniors Jordan Wang (83rd; 20:18.8), George Kunkel (86th; 20:37.1), and Mac Concannon (99th; 21:27.0).

Penn Charter seniors Etienne Dumas (left) and Catie Skinner.

Among the all-girls Catholic Academies schools, Mount St. Joseph almost always competes in a higher PIAA Division than its league peers, which have smaller enrollments. So while most of the AACA teams ran in Division II at Briarwood, the Magic were slotted in Division I and had enough depth to win the team title over Cardinal O’Hara, 85-89. Great Valley High School was a close third, with 94 points.

The individual champion was Garnet Valley High’s Alyssa Rudawsky with a time of 19:32.60. She was challenged by another senior, Central High School’s Lucy Van Kleunen (2nd; 19:37.30), a Germantown resident and a graduate of the Green Street Friends School.

Springside Chestnut Hill Academy junior Graham Allen

Two more 12th-graders followed, Haverford High’s Tess Meehan (3rd; 19:53.2) and the lead runner for the Mount, co-captain Meredith Reiche. The fourth-place finisher in 20:05.30, Reiche had run the race together with sophomore teammate Haasinya Taylor, who placed fifth in 20:07.40.

Springside Chestnut Hill Academy junior Graham Allen

MSJ freshman Julianna Kardish stepped up with a top-20 finish, landing 17th in 21:20.4, and completing the Mount’s team total were seniors Patricia Hoffman (23rd; 21:34.1) and Adrienne Cellucci (36th; 22:02.9).

The top runners in the girls’ Division II race actually proved to be a little faster than their Division I counterparts. The winner, Kelly Hayes of Pearl River High School (located roughly 20 miles northwest of New York City), separated herself from everyone to cross the line in 18:54.60, while Penn Charter’s Skinner (19:29.7) took second place exactly seven seconds ahead of Veronica Wheeler, from Catholic Academies member Nazareth Academy. Another AACA runner – from Villa Joseph Marie -was fourth in 19:48.7.

Two more PC seniors, Emily Diaz (22:12.5) and Ani Schug (22:28.7) placed 42nd and 47th, respectively, helping the Quakers post 199 points for a fifth place finish in the team results. They were the top Girls Inter-Ac school, ahead of Notre Dame (7th; 254 points), Baldwin (11th; 321), Episcopal (13th; 331), and Agnes Irwin (17th; 348). The girls’ teams from Springside Chestnut Hill and Germantown Academy did not attend the Invitational.

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