Mount track wins league, senior becomes state champion

by Tom Utescher
Posted 6/9/21

Mount St. Joseph Academy complemented its 2020 Catholic Academies cross country championship by winning the 2021 league title in track and field last month, and the Magic didn't stop there.

Annie …

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Mount track wins league, senior becomes state champion

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Mount St. Joseph Academy complemented its 2020 Catholic Academies cross country championship by winning the 2021 league title in track and field last month, and the Magic didn't stop there.

Annie Lemelin, the AACA champion in the 200-meter dash and the 100 and 300-meter hurdles, and fellow senior Margaux Rawson, winner in the high jump, both moved on to the District 1 championships on May 21 and 22, and then to the PIAA Class AAA (large school) state championship meet on Memorial Day weekend.

At the District 1 meet in Coatesville, Lemelin won the 300 hurdles and placed third in the 100's, while Rawson came in second in the high jump, where the winner needed fewer attempts to clear the bar at 5'5".

The next weekend at Shippensburg University, Lemelin won the gold medal in the 300 hurdles with a time of 44.25 seconds. Due to rain, the high jump finals were moved indoors, where Rawson came in third at 5'3".

Lemelin will enter the U.S. Naval Academy, and Rawson will continue her career at Cornell University.

On May 12, the Athletic Association of Catholic Academies championship meet was held at Malvern's Villa Maria Academy, where the host Hurricanes built up an early lead in points with its roster of strong field events performers. The Mount's Rawson won the high jump, but Villa triumphed in five of the other six field categories.

"I think they were up by 17 points at one time," said longtime Mount head coach Kitty McClernand. "It was still very close going into the last three events, the 200, the 3200, and the 4 x 400 [relay]."

Lemelin, who had already won the two hurdling races, won the 200. Second place went to MSJ junior Kathleen Downs, the 100-meter-dash champion, and sixth place was garnered by senior Maya Charles, who had won the 400 meters and had placed third in the 100 earlier in the day.

Villa didn't have anyone running the 3200, and the Magic went one-two in that race thanks to sophomore Maggie Murphy (who also placed first in the 1600) and the AACA's cross country champion, junior Mary McGrory. Despite a sore hip, junior Olivia Forti was able to provide fifth-place points.

By this stage, the Mounties had the margin they needed for the meet victory, but they were still happy to win the 4 x 400 meet finale and raise their final point total to 175.5 to Villa Maria's 153.5.

"I put Margaux into the four-by-four since she had finished the high jump a lot earlier and she had fresh legs," McClernand explained.

The runner who won the 800-meter run at the AACA meet, Kelly Murray, is a Gwynedd Mercy senior who will join Lemelin at the U.S. Naval Academy and has classmates who will pursue their sports at West Point and at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. Although Lemelin's parents are both Navy veterans, she will be the first to actually enter the Academy, since her mother enlisted and her father entered through the Officer Candidate School.

The MSJ senior says that she probably in inherited her speed from her father's side of the family; he and his sister were both fast runners, although neither pursued track and field as seriously as Annie. Her younger brother, a soccer player, will be a senior at La Salle High School.

Although Lemelin and her teammates experienced a truncated winter track season staged at less than state-of-the-art facilities, the major performers for the Magic prepared diligently. The captains, Rawson and fellow seniors Lexie Westawski (who will run at St. Joseph's University), Emily Carr, and Cayla Higginson, helped keep the younger athletes focused.

Lemelin noted, "Coach Kitty was strict about practices, and gave us workouts so we could also do training on our own."

This last measure proved particularly valuable when Mount St. Joe's experienced a COVID quarantine around Eastertime.

By following other teams' results online, Lemelin and Rawson knew about most of their chief competitors when they moved on to the district championships later in May. McGrory and Murphy also qualified for individual competition, and finished ninth and 10th, respectively, in the 3200 meters.

The Magic's relay teams did not fare well, but Lemelin won the 300 hurdles and was third in the 100's, gaining entry to the state tournament field in both events. Rawson placed second in the high jump, after an extended duel with first-place Amira Green of Neshamniny High School.

The weather had been good for the District 1 meet, but rain drenched the state championships the following weekend. The pole vault and high jump were moved indoors at Shippensburg, and while the runway for the pole vault could accommodate spiked shoes, the surface for the high jump could not. This depressed the heights for everyone, and Rawson came in third at 5'3" (she has cleared 5'7" outdoors).

Lemelin's Ship trip did not begin well, as early in her first 100-meter hurdles race she experienced some tightness at the back of one of her knees, a problem she's had before. Coming in 19th in the preliminary round, she would not be competing in the finals.

"I didn't let the 100 hurdles bother me, because I knew the 300's would really be my event," she related.

The 300's would simply be run in three heats, with the final results based on time. In the fastest heat by seeding, the third, Lemelin thought her chief competition would come from Chester High School senior Jiya Clayton, who'd finished just behind her at Districts. Here, however, Clayton would wind up fifth.

"The girl from C.B. East came out of nowhere," Lemelin said, referring to the Patriots' Ella Derstine. "She actually was leading for a lot of the race. I wasn't worried because my usual thing is to go hard in the last 100 [meters] and that's when I pull them in."

Coach McClernand said, "On the second-to-last hurdle she got in front of this girl from C.B. East and then she looked like she got in a different gear."

She won in 44.25 to Derstine's 44.84.

"I was pretty excited when I accomplished that goal," the MSJ standout commented. "Back in the middle of the season I began to see it as a real possibility, because my times were coming down more quickly than I expected."

In the classroom, Lemelin has always done well in English and History, but also says she found an A.P. course in Physics fascinating.

She noted, "You have that visual aspect that pure math doesn't give you, and there's also history involved in terms of scientific advancement."

Her final year of high school has just ended, but Lemelin's summer vacation will be over before the month is out. She is due down in Annapolis on June 30; she's learned that La Salle High School pole vaulter and jumper Tommy Christie will report there on the same day. She is already aware of many of the rigors of "Plebe Summer."

She will give up her cellphone, and will be allowed only limited spoken contact with her family, twice a month at most. She will learn proper forms of address and memorize certain inspirational quotes. Her days will start at 5:00 AM, except for the ones that begin at 4:00 A.M. Although she's a sprinter and hurdler, the longer "run test" won't bother her, since she's also been competing on the cross country team during her time at the Mount.

Her father was a pilot in the Navy, and Lemelin hopes to follow his example and enter flight school in the future. Like the fictional fighter aces in an old film she enjoyed, Top Gun, the young sprinter and aspiring pilot seems to identify with "the need for speed."

When discussing the challenges she'll face during her first few months in Annapolis, she finds that her friends seem more apprehensive than she is.

"Everyone says, you must be so scared," she remarked. "No, I'm actually excited, because it's definitely going to be the change of pace that I want and I need in my life."

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