Baton exchanges for relay races are being studied by GA runners during a damp and chilly practice. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

The weather last Tuesday afternoon was chilly with a little bit of drizzle and a touch of fog. So far, by this spring’s standards that counts as a pretty good day, so Germantown Academy track and field athletes turned out for practice as usual at Carey Stadium.

Some were continuing the training they’d done while competing indoors over the winter, others were rediscovering their form after playing other sports.

On the boys’ side, the Patriots’ headliner is clearly senior Kyle Garland. Last summer he was on the U.S. Junior Pan Am Games Team, winning a silver medal in the decathlon in Peru. At the 2017 Inter-Ac League Championships, Garland won both hurdling events, the high jump and the shot put. He’ll continue his rise at the University of Georgia.

“They have a great multi’s program there,” said GA head coach Pate Jennings. “He’s headed for great things. He’s deciding which of the major late-season meets he’s going to enter.”

Eyes will also be on junior pole vaulter Caleb Johnson.

“He had a huge indoor season,” Jennings noted. “He went over 16 feet and qualified for the Penn Relays.”

Right on the verge of qualifying for the Relays is junior Olatide Abinusawa, who competed in the shot put at the state indoor meet and has thrown over 53 feet so far. He is team co-captain this spring, along with senior sprinter Michael Capone.

Aside from Capone, Coach Jennings said, “For the sprints we have a bunch of younger guys who are coming along pretty well. One of our freshmen, Daelyn Nwaobasi, had a very good indoor season.”

Some other young athletes will be working to fill in behind Garland in the hurdles.

For distance events, GA will build around its top runner from the cross country season, Matt Sandifer. The sophomore placed fifth at the Inter-Ac championships last fall, and was the only harrier from GA, Penn Charter or Springside Chestnut Hill to place in the top 10. Jennings also sees promise in freshman Robert DiDonato, who played soccer in the fall.

Sandifer’s senior brother, Drew, wrestles in the winter and will also run distance for the track squad. Going forward, he will investigate becoming a walk-on at Boston College. Other seniors who have their college plans in place are Brad Azizi (Temple), and Oliver Haddow (George Washington).

Jennings expects that the Pats will have a strong 4 x 400 relay, although that line-up is still in flux.

“We have a number of guys competing for that whose form and mechanics have come along well so far,” he related.

Patriots sprinters learn the fine points of positioning in the starting blocks. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

For the GA girls, a strong foundation exists in distance running thanks to the Patriots’ cross country team, two-time champs in both the Inter-Ac and Pa. Independent Schools meet. The individual runner-up in both races last fall, sophomore Issy Goldstein, finished second in the 3200 meters at the league meet last spring, and was third in the 1600. She is currently homing in on the five-minute mark in the 1600.

The other four cross country scorers for GA are also out for track, although Coach Jennings cautions, “We’re going to have to work hard, because the distance runners in the Inter-Ac are strong overall for the girls’ teams.”

Two of the cross country veterans are the senior captains for the track team, Anna Hennessy (Vassar) and Kelsey O’Hara (Holy Cross).

“Anna’s running really well, and Kelsey’s flying in the 400 right now,” Jennings remarked.

The other two cross country scorers out for track are sophomores Gianna Murgia and Gabby Manosis.

Jennings expects some freshmen to make immediate contributions. He cited Mia Costonis for the sprints and jumps, and noted that Perry Irons was the Inter-Ac middle school champion in the hurdles. Over the winter another ninth-grader, Quartnei Brown, already tied the school indoor record for the pole vault.

Last spring, Meghan Toscano broke the longstanding Inter-Ac meet record in the shot put with a heave of 36 feet, 3.25 inches. Now a sophomore, she threw 40 feet during the indoor season, and she’s now adapting to a change in her shot put technique that will benefit her in the long run.

“She’s going from the glide to the spin, and sophomore year is a good time to make a change like that,” Jennings said.

Turning to the horizontal jumps, the Patriots’ skipper said, “We have a number of young fast girls who could help us.”

Costonis is one of those, along with classmate Lyric Harris-Peoples and sophomore Sasha Capers.

At the 2017 Inter-Ac championships, the GA boys placed second and the Patriot girls finished third.