by Tom Utescher

With a considerable amount of talent and the leadership of more than a dozen seniors on the cross country team, the Penn Charter boys are looking to finish high up in the standings in both the Inter-Ac League, and at the 2013 Pa. Independent Schools Championships.

The Quakers were the Inter-Ac runner-up behind Malvern Prep last fall, and they actually finished ahead of the Friars at the Pa. Indy meet, placing second behind champ Germantown Friends.

Charter’s top runner from a year ago, Etienne Dumas (third at the Pa. meet) has moved on to college, and returning junior Ben Szuhaj (fifth in that same race) has not run this fall due to injury, but PC has still made an impressive start this season.

In their first big outing in September, the Quakers placed second among two dozen teams at the Nike-sponsored Quad-X meet at Belmont Plateau, an event which included some large public school teams. Charter placed fifth at the Bulldog Invitational in Media, then went back to Belmont (also their home course for dual meets) to come in 4th in the small schools division at the venerable Briarwood Invitational.

However, the lads from School House Lane discovered that it won’t be so easy to dethrone reigning Inter-Ac champ Malvern. In their only dual meet loss thus far, the Quakers fell to the Friars, 22-33. The team rebounded to record a 22-38 victory over Germantown Academy, which has been a player in the league and in the Pa. meet, and last week Charter won on the road at Haverford School, 18-43.

Leading the way against the Fords was senior Scott Mason, who travelled the course in 16 minutes, 36 seconds for the individual victory. Three other members of the team’s top five are also experienced seniors; Tre Williams (who was second at the Quad-X), Charlie Hoyt, and Hans Stedman.

“Scott has put in the work he needed to do to become one of the premier runners in the area,” said sixth-year Penn Charter coach Tony Farrell. “He’s running very well right now, smooth and smart.”

Stedman is a fourth-year cross country veteran, and Farrell noted, “ Tre and Charlie are both track guys who were already under two-minutes in the half-mile by the time they were sophomores.

“No one really has a lock on the fifth position right now,” the coach went on. “We actually have 11 guys competing for the five, six and seven spots.”

At various times this season, the fifth man in for PC has been either Ben Richards, Geoff Zlobinsky, or Dan Marion, who are all seniors. Freshman Harper Pollio-Barbee also has a fifth-place finish under his belt.

As the calendar flips to the month of October, the Quakers will start out by wrapping up the dual meet schedule in encounters with Episcopal Academy and Springside Chestnut Hill, and they will compete in the expansive Paul Short Invitational at Lehigh University this Saturday.

At this big upstate event, high school runners are divided into Brown and White divisions (Lehigh’s team colors); in their first appearance at Paul Short, the Quakers placed second in the White Division in 2012.

A few weeks later, the Inter-Ac League meet will take place on Monday, October 21, with the Pa. Independent Schools Championships following on Saturday, October 26. Both of these races will be held at Belmont Plateau.

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