After four straight AACA championships won by Mount St. Joseph Academy in cross country, the Mount Magic reclaimed the league laurels.
After four straight Athletic Association of Catholic Academies championships won by Mount St. Joseph Academy in cross country, Gwynedd Mercy Academy took the 2022 title. The Mount Magic were six points behind in second place, with one of their regular scorers feeling ill during the race and dropping out.
This year, in last Tuesday's meet in Bucks County's Tyler State Park, the Mount Magic reclaimed the league laurels in dramatic fashion. The Mount put the first five runners across the finish line for a perfect score of 15 points, with senior Ella Woehlcke winning the individual crown for the third year in a row.
Running easily with no real challenge, she crossed the line in 19:42.0, far off of her PR on the Tyler course. Junior Katie Westmoreland followed in 19:58.0, and the Magic then had three underclassmen lock in their team score. Sarah Hock, a sophomore transfer from Gwynedd, placed third in 20:32.0 and was followed by a pair of freshmen. Charli Schoen, out of Norwood Fontbonne Academy, came in fourth in 20:35.0, and St. Genevieve's graduate Annie Seminack was fifth in 20:45.0.
The other two Mount runners in the varsity race were freshman Gianna Howe (13th; 22:30.0) and junior Grace Daly (14th; 22:43.0). In the junior varsity race that had preceded the varsity meet, the Mount had secured the top six places, and eighth and 10th place, as well.
Gwynedd Mercy, with two runners among the top 10, placed second in the team standings, with 53 points, and Villa Maria Academy was third with 109. They were followed by Sacred Heart Academy (115), Merion Mercy (116), and Villa Joseph Marie (133).
For the Mount's Woehlcke, the 2023 season had gotten off to a slow start as she dealt with shin pain due to overuse.
"They thought it came from running too much on hard surfaces," she said.
There wasn't a high-tech cure.
"I just had to try not to overdo it," she said. "I've been taking an extra day off each week."
She sat out several meets in the early weeks of the season, then entered a major event, Lehigh University's annual Paul Short Run at the end of September. She'd won the 2022 Paul Short by 40 seconds, but this year she didn't feel right.
She admitted, "It was an overwhelming race to jump into after being out."
Another week made all the difference, as she won the William Tennent (High School) Invitational the next Saturday with 17 seconds to spare.
"I went into that as kind of a workout, but it exceeded my expectations," she remarked.
At last week's AACA meet, she said, "It was a situation where I was really running for a team win."
Woehlcke has no distance runners in her immediate family; she started out at the urging of a family of runners in her neighborhood and began with sprints.
"I hated it at first, then I kind of moved into distance running," she related.
She ran CYO cross country and then ran for Springside Chestnut Hill Academy during her freshman year at the school. In the COVID-curtailed 2020 season, there were only a few Inter-Ac League dual meets and no championships, but she emerged as the fastest runner in the league.
She then transferred to the Mount as a sophomore, and when she heads to the University of Virginia next fall she'll be reunited with an old SCH classmate. The Blue Devils' Alex Reilly will be going there to play lacrosse.
On her visit to Charlottesville, she said, "The team was really friendly and welcoming. They also have a great Kinesiology program there, and I'm really interested in science and the medical field."
At the Mount, she said, one of her favorite courses has been Anatomy & Physiology, as well as A.P. Biology.
On the cross country course, she'll be defending her 2022 PIAA District 1 championship, and once the season ends she's planning to take a long break, something she hasn't been able to do for a while.
She'll be engaging in workouts of a different type, though.
"As a result of my injury, I've been working on strength training with weights," she explained. "If I'm stronger, I could be less prone to it happening again."
She's been very happy at the Mount and is pleased to see the cross country team turn out such a strong group of younger runners.
"It's easier having a whole team around me," she said, "and it's fun to see the young girls get into their groove."