by Tom Utescher

No one could stay with Springside senior Taylor Ellis-Watson, neither in the three individual sprints she won, nor in the 4 x 400 meter relay at last weekend’s Girls Inter-Ac championships. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

At the Girls Inter-Ac League track and field championships last Saturday, the concluding 4 x 400 meter relay was meaningful in many ways. It decided the overall team championship between two schools that had been tied in total points, and it brought a fitting end to the league career of a phenomonal sprinter.

After winning the 100, 200, and 400 meter dash and setting meet records in the latter two races, Springside School senior Taylor Ellis-Watson hunted down the Academy of Notre Dame’s anchor runner in the final relay, as the Lions ended the day with a victory.

However, the second-place finish was good enough for the Irish to capture the 2011 team championship over meet host Penn Charter, which came in fifth in the relay. Notre Dame wound up with 109 points and the Quakers with 103, while Springside and Episcopal Academy tied for third place, with 77 points. Germantown Academy was fifth, with 66, followed by Agnes Irwin, with 30 points, and by Baldwin, which did not score.

It was the highest finish ever for Springside, which had just 12 athletes on its roster.

Junior Toni Hall, normally a distance runner, led off the final event for the Lions, then a great second leg by Lehigh-bound senior Natalie Bates kept Springside in the thick of the race, setting up the third stage for junior Jamie McGinn. Some rival teams gambled by putting their fastest runners on the third leg, but their momentary gains were wiped out when Springside played its trump card, Ellis-Watson, on the anchor lap.

The University of Pittsburgh signee quickly blitzed past two runners ahead of her, but Notre Dame anchorwoman Hannah Gillis still led by a significant margin. Lions fans dared to hope as their favorite reduced the gap along the back straight.

Everyone at the venue, boys and girls, athletes and onlookers, stopped whatever they were doing to watch the Springside star overtake her opponents, knowing they were witnessing a performance that would be talked about for years to come. In unbiased admiration, coaches from other schools had reached for their stopwatches to record the Springsider’s time on the final leg, 53.7 seconds.

Always modest, Ellis-Watson said, “At first I wasn’t sure if I could catch her. Then I passed her in the [final] turn and I knew we had it.”

Penn Charter won the Inter-Ac meet in 2010, but Notre Dame did not bring a full team to last year’s championships. This year the Irish were intact, and other teams were solid, as well.

“There was so much talent in the league this year, pretty evenly spread between four or five teams,” said Quakers’ coach Liz Flemming. “I was flabbergasted by how well we did.
“Whether you win it or you don’t,” she continued, “the joy of sports is to be fighting for it at the end, and we were there. Our girls in the 4 x 400 [relay] ran their hearts out, with their best time by eight seconds.”

The PC quartet consisted of freshman Margaux Losty, seniors Grace McInerney and Elise Wilkinson, and freshman Lauren Dimes. Wilkinson, who’s headed for Cornell University, won the gold medal in the 800 meters, and was second in the 400.

“She also was second in the 100, and she’s really an 800 runner,” pointed out Flemming. “Her time in the 400 would’ve won a lot of other meets.”

In the field events, Charter senior Colleen Fehm was a point machine. Intending to focus on squash at Penn, Fehm finished out her Inter-Ac track career with gold medals in the pole vault and triple jump, a silver in the long jump, and a bronze in the high jump.

“She was actually injured in the middle of the season,” Flemming noted, “but obviously she’s better now. Catie Skinner [a sophomore] was hurt coming out of the winter season, but she got second for us in the 1600 and third in the 3200.”

GA freshman Megan McCloskey won the high jump at 5’8”, qualifying for a trip to the USA Junior Nationals in Oregon next month, and her sophomore sister, Kiernan, won the long jump and was runner-up in the high jump. Their mother, Mimi, worked long hours before and during the meet, setting up and operating the computer programs that charted the results for both the boys and girls’ championships.

The Pats received bronze medals from senior Natalie Hall in the 100 meters, and from freshman Kerry Lawlor in the 800.

After the meet, Springside coach Bob Shoudt remarked, “Obviously, Taylor performed super. She was the MVP here as a freshman, and now with her injuries gone by the wayside, she was able to win it again. She was just outstanding.”

Several physical problems hampered Ellis-Watson during her sophomore and junior seasons, but her senior year was clearly one for the record books.

The Lions got off to a solid start last Saturday in the field events portion of the championship meet. Junior Ashlee Hale ruled the shot put circle, winning the gold medal with a career-best toss of 33 feet, more than six feet farther than the second-place throw.

Bronze medals went to Springside’s Bates in the long jump, and to McGinn in the triple jump. On the track, Bates picked up a second bronze medal in the 300 meter hurdles. In addition to cheering on their established stars, Springside fans saw an emerging talent.

As Shoudt pointed out, “Our eighth-grader, Jamie Costarino, scored in two distance events, and has a bright future ahead of her.”

Costarino was fourth in the 3200 and sixth in the 1600 meters.

“Hopefully, we’ll get some more girls to come out for the team,” Shoudt said, “but we’re fortunate that the ones that we have are really good, quality people.”

Winners and Springside, PC, GA scorers.

100 meters
1. SS Taylor Ellis-Watson 12.50
2. PC Elyse Wilkinson 13.25
3. GA Natalie Hall 13.28

200 meters
1. SS Taylor Ellis-Watson 24.53
4. GA Kiernan McCloskey 26.89

400 meters
1. SS Taylor Ellis-Watson 54.91
2. PC Elyse Wilkinson 57.72
4. GA Hayli Randolph 1:00.00
6. GA Anna Hallahan 1:02.22

800 meters
1. PC Elyse Wilkinson 2:15.40
3. GA Kerry Lawlor 2:22.52

1600 meters
1. ND Maria Seykora 5:02.38
2. PC Catie Skinner 5:19.63
6. SS Jamie Costarina 5:26.45

3200 meters
1. ND Maria Seykora 11:39.64
3. PC Catie Skinner 11:46.04
4. SS Jamie Costarina 11:53.17

100 meter hurdles
1. EA Sarah Bernhardt 16:05
3. PC Amma Ntoso 17:30

300 meter hurdles
1. ND Katie Nappi 45.37
3. SS Natalie Bates 46.80
4. PC Amma Ntoso 50.32
6. GA Ali Simkins 51.64

High jump
1. GA Megan McCloskey 5’8”
2. GA Kiernan McCloskey 5’2”
3. PC Colleen Fehm 5’2”
5. SS Natalie Bates 4’10”

Long jump
1. GA Kiernan McCloskey 16’9”
2. PC Colleen Fehm 16’7.75”
3. SS Natalie Bates 16’3.25”
5. GA Megan McCloskey 15’11.5”

Pole vault
1. PC Colleen Fehm 8’6”
3. PC Marisa Shepard 7’0”

Shot put
1. SS Ashlee Hale 33’0”
3. PC Saagarika Thanvi 25’3”

Triple jump
1. PC Colleen Fehm 34’4.5”
3. SS Jamie McGinn 32’9”
6. PC Amma Ntoso 31’7.25”

4 x 100 meter relay
1. Episcopal Academy 50.28
2. Germantown Academy 50.66
5. Penn Charter 55.04
6. Springside School 59.38

4 x 400 meter relay
1. Springside School 4:02.71
3. Germantown Academy 4:10.63
5. Penn Charter 4:11.97