The varsity seven from Germantown Friends School gather around their Pa. Independent Schools championship trophy. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

Last Saturday afternoon on the Belmont Plateau cross country course, the boys of Germantown Friends School and the girls of Germantown Academy doubled down on their recent league championship victories by winning their races in the Pennsylvania Independent Schools championships.

It was the third straight PAIS win for the GFS Tigers, who put four of their five scorers in the top 10 to triumph over Inter-Ac League winner Malvern Prep, 47 points to 60. The scoring for every other team was up in triple digits.

Back on October 17, GFS captured its 15th consecutive Friends Schools League Championship, roaring to the win with all five scorers placing among the top eight overall.

The GA girls repeated as PAIS champs with 57 points, and in a real battle for second place, 2017 FSL titlist Friends Central edged Penn Charter, 69-70. Five days earlier, the Patriots had won the Inter-Ac girls’ meet for the second year in a row, with PC becoming runner-up this year.

Last Saturday, GA sophomore Issy Goldstein was the individual runner-up, coming in behind Penn Charter freshman phenom Emma Zwall and just ahead of the youngest runner of the bunch, GFS eighth-grader Annika Marcelis. The three girls know one another from many outings together on the youth club circuit.

A fourth-place showing for Germantown Friends (106 pts.) last Saturday signaled a revival in the program; the Tigers had won in 2015, but slipped to ninth at last year’s meet. Springside Chestnut Hill Academy ended up 10th in the girls’ field of 12 teams, scoring 223 points to top Abington Friends and Shipley School.

Following GFS and Malvern in the boys’ team results was Episcopal Academy, which was led by race winner Elias Lindgren, a senior who got his team off to a strong start toward a 113-point performance. Next were Hill School, Haverford School, Friends Central, and then Germantown Academy, which put up 176 points to place seventh.

A little farther down in the field of 14, Springside Chestnut Hill came in 10th with 257 points, and Penn Charter was 11th, with 269. At the start of the week, PC’s Quakers had finished ahead of the Blue Devils at the Inter-Ac meet.

It was already almost 5:00 PM when the first of the varsity races, the boys’, got going last Saturday. EA’s Lindgren, fourth in the Inter-Ac and ninth in the PAIS championships last year, added the 2017 Indy Schools crown to the league laurels he’d earned just five days earlier.

Through much of the race, he ran with Inter-Ac runner-up, Malvern senior Peter Borger, and with Friends League champ Jeffrey Love, a George School junior. Late in the race gaps opened up, with Lindgren winning in 16 minutes, 24.6 seconds, followed in by Borger (16:30.2) and Love (16:44.7).

Haverford School senior Will Merhige claimed fourth place in 16:50.6, but Germantown Friends fans grew confident when their Tigers gobbled up four of the next five spots. With Malvern’s number two (Collin Hess) in the middle, GFS sent across seniors Zach Goldberg (fifth; 16:58.5), Colin Riley (sixth; 17:13.4), Tim Peterson (eighth; 17:18.5) and junior Miles Gomez-Younkin (ninth; 17:27.7). Germantown Academy’s leader, sophomore Matt Sandifer, rounded out the top 10 in 17:31.6.

As Malvern’s third and fourth finishers came in, GFS supporters anxiously awaited the arrival of their fifth man to seal the deal. Senior Alex Blaylock got it done, placing 19th in 18:00.4 while the Friars’ number five ended up 25th overall in 18:27.3.

When the gun went off for the girls’ race, the youth movement featuring Zwall, Goldstein and Marcelis got underway. Also in the mix was Friends Central sophomore Rebecca Wusinich, who had won the long-running George School Invitational early in the season.

In the Inter-Ac race, Zwall had made her decisive move as the leaders filtered through the woods in the middle of the course. She did it again on Saturday, but this time Goldstein stayed much closer to her. The Charter ninth-grader won in 19:00.7, with Goldstein coming in at 19:08.3.

Marcelis, who’d won the Friends League title over Wusinich, eclipsed the FC sophomore once more to take third place in 19:35.6, while her league rival was timed in 19:47.9.

On the team front, though, things were looking good for Friends Central as two more Phoenix runners placed right behind Wusinich. GA sophomore Gianna Murgia made it into the top 10 by placing eighth (20:50.4), but she was only the second Patriot to finish while FC had its number four pick up 11th place.

Just after that, though, GA received 12th and 13th thanks to seniors Kelsey O’Hara (21:04.2) and Anna Hennessy (21:10.0), so now a lot was riding on the number five runners for the Patriots and the Phoenix. Before they hove into view, Penn Charter brought the rest of its scoring five back into the stable. In 15th and 16th were two juniors, Mary McDavid (21:15.5) and Emma Zwall’s sister Abby (21:19.20). They were followed by a pair of sophomores, Alicia Newman (18th; 21:26.7) and Sophia Solomon (20th; 21:34.0).

The Quakers had locked in their team score at 70 points; now they would have to see how their top rivals finished up.

More than half-a-minute after Solomon completed the race, a group of three runners approached. Leading and bringing up the rear in this trio were two GFS harriers, freshman Isabel Riley (21st; 22:21.3) and sophomore Maribel Carpenter (23rd; 22:25.6). In between, Germantown Academy fans spotted their number five, 10th-grader Gabriela Manosis, who put the Patriots over the top by securing the 22nd spot in 22:22.8).

In 24th was the first Springside Chestnut Hill runner, senior Allie Kitchell (22:34.3). Ending her run in 23:28.5 for 45th overall (netting 43 points due to two unaffiliated runners ahead of her), Friends Central’s Kristen Johnson was too late to help the Phoenix against GA, but just in time to nudge her team ahead of PC.

The fourth-place team tally for Germantown Friends was finalized by senior Corin Grady (29th; 22:43.3) and sophomore Charlotte Perine (30th; 22:43.6).

Other scorers (actual places):
GA Boys
10 Matt Sandifer SO 17:31.6
32 Drew Sandifer SR 18:41.1
46 Oliver Haddow SR 19:20.8
47 Kevin Lamb JR 19:23.3
48 Nick DiBello SR 19:23.6

SCH Boys
21 Marco Goldberg SO 18:06.5
44 Matt Miles SO 19:10.7
65 Peter Humphreys FR 20:13.3
71 Isaac Becker FR 20:46.0
72 David Moslow SR 20:48.3

PC Boys
39 Drew Gillespie FR 18:52.5
45 Blaise Ciarrocchi SR 19:17.6
61 Alex Turner SR 20:05.9
68 Chris Thomas SR 20:22.4
74 Justin Wilson SO 21:00.4

SCH Girls
24 Allie Kitchell SR 22:34.3
41 Lilly Forrest JR 23:18.0
43 Haley Unthank SR 23:22.2
54 Elizabeth Moore SO 24:03.7
69 Paige Aloise SR 25:49.0