by Tom Utescher

After making an undefeated run through the Girls Inter-Ac League regular season schedule for the first time in school history, Springside Chestnut Hill Academy tested its mettle against some of the best runners in the region last Saturday evening, participating in the 7th Annual Twilight Invitational at Souderton High School.

The boys’ varsity race was, indeed, run at twilight, and in the girls’ race, which went of a little earlier, the SCH Lions received a sixth-place finish from sophomore Jamie Costarino and wound up 10th in the team standings out of the 14 schools who had official teams at the event. Although still rounding back into shape following a stress fracture, Costarino ran a personal record time of 18 minutes, 53 seconds, joining 14 other runners who earned MileSplit® National Elite Silver Standard status on Souderton’s relatively flat five-kilometer course.

Because every other team at the invitational was a member of the Pa. Interscholastic Athletic Association, Springside Chestnut Hill did not enter one of its varsity regulars, Emma Helstrom, in the actual varsity race at Souderton. Instead, the seventh-grader competed in the junior varsity contest, beating all of her high-school-aged opponents to win in 20:26, more than half-a-minute ahead of the runner-up.

In league competition this fall, the Lions’ first dual meet turned out to be the closest, as they won at Germantown Academy, 28-29. In another nailbiter on the road, SCH topped Penn Charter, 27-30, and after that the
rest of the team’s Inter-Ac wins came more easily.

Captain Maddi Hinchey, a Norwood Fontbonne Academy graduate, is the only senior on the Lions’ roster. At last Saturday’s invitational she placed 35th in 21 minutes flat, a step behind freshman teammate Nicole Novo, who was 34th in 20:59. Completing the team score for the Lions were freshman Brenna Isackman (67th; 22:39), and a sophomore transfer from the Academy of Notre Dame, Steph Haenn (82nd; 24:54).

The SCH underclassmen were just part of a plethora of young talent at the Twilight Invitational. In fact, the first two seniors didn’t finish until 10th and 11th place; defending Catholic Academies champion Megan Magarity of St. Basil was timed in 19:15, and Gwynedd Mercy’s Emma Keenan finished two seconds later. In addition to placing ahead of these two AACA standouts, SCH’s Costarino also eclipsed the top finisher from that league, Nazareth Academy junior Veronica Wheeler (7th; 19:00).

Methacton High School phenom Kara Steinke, an 11th-grader who won the championship division at September’s Briarwood Invitational in Philadelphia, shattered both the competition and the course record last Saturday, winning in 18:05. That put her 29 seconds ahead of the runner-up, fellow junior Kaitlin Poisz of Central Bucks South.

Third through fifth went to a trio of freshmen. Maddie Villalba (18:44) and Emory Griffin (18:48) helped generate a convincing team victory for Central Bucks West, who totaled 40 points while Poisz’ C.B. South squad was a distant runner-up with 106. In fifth place was Wissahickon High School’s Lotte Black (18:51).

This week, Springside Chestnut Hill will once again be trying to make some waves in a major talent pool, travelling to the Henderson High School Invitational in West Chester, PA. That’ll be the Lions’ final tune-up before the Inter-Ac championship meet on October 15 at Belmont Plateau.