Cheltenham meet expectations and then some on PA's biggest stage

Cheltenham's track teams entered Sunday's PTFCA State Indoor meet with a lengthy list of goals and expectations.

Remarkably, the Panthers left State College with an even longer registry of their accomplishments, having successfully defended a pair of team titles.

“We feel blessed and fortunate," boys' coach Dr. Robert Beale said after his team closed out the meet with a 4x400-meter relay victory. “What you experienced was the culmination of kids who have made a commitment for the last four years (and) great parent support. Now they have come to the point of reaping the fruits of their labors.

“Last year was the start. We saw this building up, but I didn't know if we would ever win back-to-back titles after we won the first one. … It was sweet to obtain that last year. This is even better."

Combined, Cheltenham scored 136 points and won 10 event gold medals. Last year, the Panthers won the team crowns with a combined 88 points.

“We came in with high expectations for all our girls, and they came up and met those expectations," coach Adam Syty said. “They just really rose to the occasions that they prepared themselves for."

For the boys, the Panthers scored in eight events, with six of those competitions yielding first-place finishes en route to 74 points. Beale commended seniors Christian Brissett, who won both dashes and contributed legs on a pair of winning relays, and John Lewis, who claimed the 800 run and joined Brissett on both baton units.

Senior Saahir Bethea also claimed gold with a clutch sixth-round effort of 22 feet, 10 inches in the long jump.

For the girls, Cheltenham scored at least six points in seven events, with victories in three individual events and a relay.

“We have really good athletes, and we try to get them to do a wide array of events, from the 100 to the 400 meters and we always throw them in the hurdles and the long jump," girls' coach Kelly Jensen said. “We want them doing a variety of things because it makes it more interesting.

“The other thing is they just work really hard. These kids are hard workers and so they run at a very high level all through the season because of that hard work."

On the girls' side, Ciara Leonard made history with her win in the 60 hurdles, sophomore Chanel Brissett narrowly missed a state meet record in claiming the 60 dash and freshman Madison Langley-Walker provided an extra spark with a long jump title.

“The long jump surprised us," Jensen said. “Winning at a 17-11 as a freshman, and she's a very capable young lady. She separated herself from the field that first jump and nobody caught her. And that was very surprising."

The last school to win both team titles was Abington in 2011.