Special to PennTrackXC by Tom Kennedy - Photos by Chris Pastore
Large School Boys
Junior Kevin James shattered the meet record and led last year’s state team runner-up ~ Cardinal O’Hara ~ to a convincing win in their big meet debut at the Bulldog Invitational’s Large School Boys’ race in Rose Tree Park Saturday.
O’Hara (PA #3) convincingly bested the 17-team field with PA #10 West Chester East claiming 2nd (109 points). Downingtown West (3rd with 126 points) rushed past PA #6 Pennridge (4th with 149 points). Amazingly, Downingtown West’s top 4 runners were freshmen on a varsity team that featured 5 frosh.
James’s 15:12.5 topped a strong race from senior Chris Cummings (15:30.7) of West Chester East. Both harriers eclipsed the meet record of Greg Thomas of Cardinal O’Hara (15:36.0), run in 2006. Last year’s top frosh finisher in the State AAA race ~ Jake Brophy of CB East took 3rd in 15:38.4.
As has been the practice for the last several years, the Bulldog Invitational uses the “Floyd” course at Rose Tree Park, an alternative 5k design, different from the traditional course, that was first used in 1999 after damage from Hurricane Floyd temporarily blocked the park’s usual paths.
O’Hara placed its first 5 runners in the top 9 of the race and 7 among the top 24. There were 112 finishers in this divisional race. Senior Jim Belfatto (15:46.2, 4th), sophomore Rob Morro (16:01.8, 6th), junior Drew Pastore (16:05.7, 7th), senior Nick Smart (16:11.3, 9th), junior Jack Nolen (16:41.5, 21st) and senior Christian Donnelly (16:46.3, 24th) rounded out the team win for the Lions.
Although it was a cross country race, standout 800 meter runners shined in the Large School race. Half-milers Billy Caldwell of Downingtown East (16:08.7, 8th), Joe Logue of Pennridge (16:19.7, 11th) and Kyle Francis of Bensalem (16:21.3, 12th) mixed in good races with Eric Distelow of WC East (10th, 16:16) and Josh Smith of Avon Grove (15:53.2, 5th).
Small School Boys
The Inter-Ac League was showcased in the Small School Boys’ race as Scott Mason (15:55.7) of Penn Charter grabbed the individual title and Malvern Prep (53 points) outdistanced Radnor (79) and Upper Merion (91) to take the team crown.
Mason, a senior, held off a great 1-2 punch from Radnor ~ Connor Holm (15:59.3, 2nd) and Watson Hanson (16:06.3, 3rd). Malvern placed 5 runners in the top 20 in their team win, led by Jaxson Hoey (16:14.6, 5th) and Billy McDevitt (16:16.2, 6th). Austin Cooper of Upper Merion was 4th in 16:10.9.
Large School Girls
Methacton senior Kara Steinke wowed the crowd with a dominating win in the Large School Girls’ race, going 18:18.4. A tough 4-team race emerged with 2 ranked and 2 unranked teams in this divisional bout.
PA #8 CB East was impressive and efficient, winning the title with 40 points, and 6 girls in the top 18. Along with CB East, two unranked teams ~ North Penn (2nd, 85 points) and Cardinal O’Hara (3rd, 88 points) ~ upset PA #4 CB West (4th , 97 points).
North Penn used 8th, 9th and 10th place finishes from Phoebe Clowser (sophomore, 19:02.9), Ali Valenti (junior, 19:11.6) and Brianna Mengini (senior, 19:16.7) to fuel their efforts. O’Hara were led by 5 runners in the top 27, getting top 20 performances from senior Amy Kelly (5th, 18:52.5), sophomore Grace Mancini (12th, 19:21.1) and freshman Sarah Hayes (19th, 19:44.8).
Finishing behind Steinke, sophomore Elizabeth Huuki (2nd, 18:42.7) led the CB East team title charge. Backing her up were frosh Tate Dawson (4th, 18:50.8), junior Elizabeth Morris (6th, 18:57.4), frosh Hannah Morris (14th, 19:25.6), senior Louise Huuki (17th, 19:40.4) and senior Meaghan Willcoxen (18th, 19:42.2).
Wissahickon sophomore Lohe Black took 3rd in 18:48.4. CB West was led by Maddie Villalba who took 10th in 19:18.1.
Small School Girls’ Race
This divisional race was clearly black and white. As in Strath Haven. The PA #9 Panthers took the team title with 26 points behind 1-2-3 individual sweep. Runner-up Upper Merion scored 101 points.
Haven harriers Abby Kennedy (senior, 1st, 19:24.2), Allie Wilson (senior, 2nd, 19:37.8), and Claire Wolters (junior, 3rd, 19:44.0) led the sweep. Samantha Snyder (senior, 10th, 20:33.1), Sara Peeleman (senior, 12th, 20:38.4),Caroline Lentz (junior, 16th, 20:49.3) and senior Christina Cheruka(20th, 20:55.7) ably backed up the dominating team effort.