Boys to Malvern, girls to GA for Inter-Ac track meets

by Tom Utescher
Posted 5/26/21

After the COVID cancellation of 2020, the Inter-Ac League track championships returned last weekend, albeit in a somewhat different format than usual.

Due to the irregular nature of the season, …

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Boys to Malvern, girls to GA for Inter-Ac track meets

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After the COVID cancellation of 2020, the Inter-Ac League track championships returned last weekend, albeit in a somewhat different format than usual.

Due to the irregular nature of the season, there were no team trophies and no official champions, and to damp down crowd size the boys' and girls' competitions were separated. Malvern Prep hosted the boys' meet on Friday, and the girls performed at Germantown Academy the following day.

The changes didn't affect the desire of athletes and teams to place as high as they could.

With some notable exceptions, the Main Line schools dominated the boys' meet, with Episcopal Academy, host Malvern, and Haverford School emerging as the top three teams with 152.5, 144.5 and 84 points, respectively. After them came the three schools on this side of the Schuylkill River, GA (71), Springside Chestnut Hill Academy (36) and Penn Charter (three).

Teams from this area fared better in the girls' gathering. Host GA was able to outduel Episcopal for the top spot, 130 points to 118, while SCH came in third, with 85 points. The Academy of Notre Dame's total of 72 was just three points higher than Penn Charter's, while sixth and seventh place went to Agnes Irwin (nine) and Baldwin School (two).

On Friday, lads from Episcopal, Haverford, and Malvern won the three dash races, all three relays, the hurdling events, and three of the field events. However, in the three longest footraces, GA's Robert DiDonato repeated the sweep he'd achieved back in 2019 as a sophomore. The Stanford-bound senior won this year's 800 in one minute, 56.20 seconds, the 1600 in 4:23.60, and the 3200 in 9:47.33. His Patriots teammate, junior Alex Badami, finished third in the 1600 and fourth in the 3200.

Vance Thorpe, a GA sophomore, placed second in the long jump and fourth in the 100-meter dash.

Germantown Academy also garnered third-place points from junior Jacob French in the triple jump and from freshman Mario Toscano in the discus.

Discus and Javelin are two relatively new field events in official Inter-Ac meets, and Springside Chestnut Hill capitalized on that last Friday. Senior Cornell Kemp set a new league record in winning the discus (142'5"), and his Blue Devils teammate, sophomore Darrion Rascoe, won the javelin (124'7"). Kemp also won the shot put (53'1") and placed second in the jav, while Rascoe was runner-up in the discus.

SCH junior Henry Brandstadter collected points in each of the events he entered, winning the high jump (6'2"), coming in third in the 100-meter dash, and placing fifth in both the 200 meters and the long jump.There weren't many highlights for the Penn Charter boys; the Quakers placed fifth in the 4 x 100 meter relay, and senior Drew Gillespie was sixth in the 1600.

Every team must cope with injuries, but the SCH girls were seriously hampered by them by the end of the season. One of their two very talented freshmen distance runners was never able to race at all this spring after sustaining a stress fracture during indoor meets. Three other Blue Devils competed at championships, but had their activities restricted due to physical problems.

One of them, senior Esther Lamb, helped the Devils win the 4 x 100 relay, but was not able to run the hurdles. Until injuring herself in an extra-curricular activity, Lamb had shown improvement in these events since her sophomore season, when she won 100 hurdles at the league championships (with a time that would've won this year) and placed fourth in the 300's.

After setting league records in the 100 and 200 dash as a freshman in 2019, GA's superb sprinter, Moforehan Abinusawa, had suffered a hamstring injury that affected her for a long time. Last weekend, she was back, easily winning the 100 in 11.98 seconds (not far off her record of 11.78), and setting a new record in the 200 (24.44 to 2019's 24.47).

Runner-up in both finals was SCH's Sabria Epps, a senior headed for Penn State. In the 400 meters, Epps came from third place approaching the final turn to win the race in 57.98 seconds. GA junior Bri O'Hara placed second here, and Patriots senior Perri Irons was third. Irons, who is going on to Tulane University, was the runner-up in the 300 hurdles, which was won by Penn Charter senior Peyton Parker (who'll attend Yale) in 45.21 seconds.

As the distances on the track grew longer, the SCH Blue Devils relied upon freshman Ella Woehlke, who became the runner-up in the 800 and the third-place finisher in the 1600. The diminutive ninth-grader was not a frontrunner in the early stages of either race, and had to try and fight her way past bigger bodies toward the end.

Not a factor in the sprints, Penn Charter generated points in the longer footraces. Dani Shipon, who had run in the Inter-Ac 800-meter final as an eighth-grader in 2019 (along with her senior sister, Sara), won the race this year as a sophomore in 2:19.15.

Quakers senior Emma Zwall, a two-time Inter-Ac cross country champion heading to Brown University, placed second in the 1600 to the winner from Notre Dame by just one hundredth of a second. In the 3200, Charter junior Olivia Montini led start to finish, winning in 11:43.22 over runner-up Carolyn Connolly, a GA sophomore. Penn Charter won the 4 x 800 relay, in which Montini and Shipon were joined by juniors Elena Coupas and Julia Dolce and set a new league record of 9:35.80. Dolce and Shipon had run on the 2019 relay that established the previous record of 9:48.43.

Junior hurdler Amanda Ehrenhalt finished third for PC in the 100-meter high hurdles and came in fourth in the 300 intermediates. Third place in the 300's went to SCH sophomore Jasmine Matthews.

The winner of the 100 hurdles in 16.60 seconds, GA sophomore Fiona McKenna proved a versatile scorer who helped the Patriots in many ways. She also won the high jump (4'8") and long jump (17'8.25"), and was part of Germantown's second-place 4 x 100 meter relay team.

The Pats profited from the efforts of juniors Alex Goodridge (third in the long jump, fifth in the 100 meters) and Julie Gonzalez (fourth in the 1600, fifth in the 800).

Springside Chestnut Hill had accumulated a pile of points from the field events early in the meet. Senior Ava Roberts won the javelin (93'7") and was second in both the shot put and discus. Junior Maya McDermott won the triple jump and finished fifth in the long jump. Best known as a standout soccer player, McDermott has made a verbal commitment to Syracuse University.

In the field events, as everywhere else, GA got its share of points, starting with senior Sarah Fineman's victories in the shot put (41'8.25") and the discus (110'8.0"). Freshman Alyssa DePaul was second in the javelin and fifth in the shot, and GA sophomore Ella Metro placed fourth in the long jump.

With only two events remaining in Saturday's meet, GA only held a four-point advantage over the girls of Episcopal Academy in the team scoring. Connolly's second-place outcome in the 3200 added two more points to the Patriots' advantage (EA took fourth and fifth here), but the Churchwomen still had a chance for the meet victory.

It would take a very good effort by Episcopal in the 4 x 400 relay and a very poor one by Germantown Academy. Instead, the GA quartet (O'Hara/ Goodridge/Gonzalez/Irons) certified a Patriot victory in the meet by winning the race in a school-record time of 4:02.31.

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