By: Rich Flanagan (@richflanagan33)
Photos: Patty Morgan
PHILADELPHIA – It was another exciting season on the outdoor track with several local teams winning both team and individual league and state titles. Germantown Academy and the Haverford School returned to the top of the Inter-Ac while Neumann-Goretti continued to showcase what has made it the premiere program in the Philadelphia Catholic League in recent years.
Here’s our track & field season recap:
Dion Lehman knew the expectations that were thrust upon him coming into the outdoor track & field season.
After having led the Germantown Academy indoor team for the last seven seasons, Lehman took over the outdoor program from Pete Jennings, who had overseen it for 14 years. Jennings left a lasting impression and winning tradition as evidenced by the 68 individual Inter-Ac League titles and 37 individual Pennsylvania Independent Schools Athletic Association (PAISAA) crowns during his tenure as head coach.
Having already had experience running a track & field program for the Patriots along with success on the track himself (four-year athlete at Princeton where he earned Second Team All-Ivy League in the long jump in 2011), Lehman was prepared to lead Germantown Academy back atop the outdoor field.
The Patriots claimed the Inter-Ac and PAISAA girls titles in Lehman’s first season at the helm. It was Germantown Academy’s first state title in over a decade for the girls team in the outdoor season and they were led by four First Team All Inter-Ac selections in Issy Goldstein, Fore Abinusawa, Lily Cohen and Meaghan Toscano.
Goldstein won the PAISAA title in the 3200 with a time of 10:31.14, breaking the state record by 14 seconds. Additionally, she took home the 1600 in 4:54.57. The junior was one of two Patriots to take home multiple state titles in individual events and Lehman credits a change to running track & field all year round as the focal point of her success this season.
“She has been a standout runner since she’s been in middle school,” Lehman said. “Last spring, she ran some great times and we knew this year would be a breakthrough year. This was the first time she ran all three seasons. She swam in the winter in her freshman and sophomore year so I think the added time of getting that training indoor really translated into a lot of outdoor success.”
For Goldstein, who also claimed the 1600 and 3200 at the Inter-Ac Championships, keeping her body in-line with track both mentally and physically paid dividends.
“It changed my perspective as a runner,” Goldstein said. “I saw myself belonging and being able to compete against a really high caliber group of runners, which is a confidence boost but also something I knew I could bring with me to the outdoor season.”
Goldstein wasn’t the only junior to stand out. After a strong sophomore campaign where she set records in both the shot put and the discus, Toscano broke her own records in the shot put (44-11.00) and discus (139-11.00) at the PAISAA Championships. She nearly walked away with three titles but finished in second in the javelin with a score of 100-05.50. Lehman notes how Toscano has “always had the explosiveness and the strength but she’s somebody that works so incredibly hard. She’s beaten our shot put record by about 10 feet since she came into the school.”
Germantown Academy junior Issy Goldstein broke the PA state record in the 3200m with a time of 10:31.14 this season - PSD Photo by Patty Morgan
This year, GA junior Meaghan Toscano broke her own records in the shot put (44-11.00) and discus (139-11.00) at the PAISAA Championships - PSD Photo by Patty Morgan
Cohen transferred to Germantown Academy after her sophomore season at Benjamin N. Cardozo High School (N.Y.), where she set the New York City record in the pole vault (11-7). It didn’t take long for her to make her mark with the Patriots as she broke the school record in the pole vault twice during the Ursinus Invitational in December, her first event with the team. She set a mark of 12’10” and that catapulted her to a standout outdoor season.
She won the Inter-Ac title in the event and came in second at the PAISAA Tournament. The junior capped off her year by finishing in 10th in the pole vault (12’6.25”) at the New Balance Nationals Outdoor at North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro, N.C.
While the upperclassmen certainly had their fair share of success, the underclassmen also made their mark.
Freshman Fore Abinusawa dazzled in her first outdoor season breaking the state record in the 100m with a time of 11.93, surpassing the previous record by .08 seconds. She also claimed the Inter-Ac title in the 100m and 200m.
Lehman knew the potential Abinusawa had but he’s even more astonished when he thinks back on how she wasn’t 100 percent for much of the outdoor season.
Germantown Academy junior Lily Cohen finished 10th in the pole vault (12’6.25”) at the New Balance Nationals Outdoor at North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro, N.C. - PSD photo by Patty Morgan
Germantown Academy freshman Fore Abinusawa broke the PA state record in the 100m with a time of 11.93 - PSD Photo by Patty Morgan
“Early in the spring, she had a minor hamstring strain that prevented her from getting the training she would’ve hoped to have,” Lehman said. “Still, she was healthy enough come championship time to go out there and run. It’s pretty exciting to see what lies ahead of her.”
Despite being only a freshman, Abinusawa relished the opportunity to compete against the best runners in the Inter-Ac and the state.
“I feel like as a freshman I was a little nervous coming in but I was excited to go against high school competition because they would be greater competitors and present a challenge,” Abinusawa said. “I think that excitement drove me to run some great times and motivated me throughout the season.”
Quartnei Brown followed Cohen in the pole vault and tied the PAISAA record in the event by clearing 11’. The sophomore helped add to a successful outdoor season for Lehman and the Patriots.
The first-year head coach was excited because this group is all returning next season.
“It’s a great group of girls who love the sport and love being around one another,” Lehman said. “So even setting their talent aside, it’s a really fun group to work with. It’s exciting to be returning so many of them. The key is to stay hungry and for each girl to keep pushing for their best.”
Germantown Academy sophomore Quartnei Brown tied the PAISAA record in the pole vault by clearing 11’ - PSD Photo by Patty Morgan
Abinusawa reiterated her coach’s sentiments when describing the bond this team created over the course of the season.
“We’re all so close to each other and I especially saw that during the Inter-Ac Championship because we were cheering each other on and supporting one another,” Abinusawa said. “It’s great to come together as one.”
Goldstein put it perfectly when reflecting what the Patriots had accomplished individually and what they hope to do next year with so many members returning.
“I think it’s kind of incredible when you have so many girls from specialized events who are all performing at really high levels because I think that sets a good example for the rest of the team,” Goldstein said. “This way others are thinking, ‘Oh, it’s not just the distance runners who can have success.’ Seeing Lily, Quartnei, Meaghan and Fore all putting in such hard work over practice pushes me more because we all hold ourselves to a really high standard and in turn that definitely motivates the rest of the team.”
Lehman also oversaw the boys outdoor team, which finished in third in both the Inter-Ac and PAISAA championships, respectively, after winning those titles a year ago. Caleb Johnson, a First Team All Inter-Ac selection bound for the University of Pennsylvania, finished first in the pole vault (15’7”) at the state tournament. Fellow UPenn commit Ola Abinusawa, Fore’s brother, was also a First Team All Inter-Ac pick took home the PAISAA shot put title (56-00.00). Senior Kevin Lamb, who is headed to Lehigh University, finished fourth in the 300m hurdles at the state championship.
Germantown Academy senior Caleb Johnson, finished first in the pole vault (15’7”) at the state tournament - PSD Photo by Patty Morgan
Germantown Academy senior Ola Abinusawa, placed first in shot put (56-00.00) in the PAISAA Championships - PSD Photo by Patty Morgan
Germantown Academy senior Kevin Lamb finished fourth in the 300m hurdles at the state championship - PSD Photo by Patty Morgan
What the Neumann-Goretti program has risen to is unlike any other in the Philadelphia Catholic League. The girls outdoor team took home the PCL title for the second straight year along with the District 12 Class 2A for the fourth time in five seasons. From there, it was on to the state championship where the Saints cemented themselves as one of the top programs in Pa. yet again.
Neumann-Goretti captured its third straight PIAA Girls 2A Outdoor Championship with a total of 64 points (Girard College came in second with 32). Under the leadership of head coach Lincoln Townsend Jr., who just finished coaching his seventh season, the Saints program has progressed into one which develops some of the best track & field athletes in the state and has accumulated a wealth of championships, both as a team and individually.
Townsend Jr., the 2018 U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Girls Coach of the Year in Pa., understands what his athletes expect of him coming in and he expects to see their names on the top of the final results, particularly the state championship and possibly even the New Balance Nationals, if they follow his regiment.
“With track and field, they don’t come into Neumann-Goretti as a recreational sport,” Townsend Jr. said. “They’re coming in trying to obtain a college scholarship. The workload is intense but well worth it at the end. Our mindset is giving it everything we have every day so that parents don’t have to pay entirely for school.”
This has become increasingly apparent on the girls side.
Two years ago, Mykala Perry placed second in the 400m as a freshman at the 2A Tournament and last season she won the state title in the event. As a junior, she managed to top two consecutive seasons of improvement by setting the state record with a winning time of 54.50 in the 400m, eclipsing the previous record of 54.65, set by Saucon Valley’s Alyssa Lombardo in 2010. She added another state title, this time in the 4x400m relay, where her team set another record (3:54.38).
Neumann-Goretti junior Mykala Perry, placed first in the 100m, 200m and 400m at the PCL Outdoor Championships- PSD Photo by Patty Morgan
Perry, who earned First Team All-Catholic by taking 100m, 200m and 400m titles at the PCL Outdoor Championships, made her goal at the beginning of the year to break the record and push her performance further than she had before.
“I had been going for that record for a while now,” Perry said. “It was my goal for this year because last year I didn’t run the time that I had wanted to. To run the time I did this year, I was very grateful.”
Perry’s only setback at the 2A Tournament was finishing second in the 200m to Girard College’s Thelma Davies, who won a national title in the event at the New Balance Nationals Outdoor. She was a member of the Saints 4x800m team, along with Dasia Wilson, Sanaiya Watts and Kami Joi Hickson, that took home the national title last year but unfortunately the quartet did not get the opportunity to defend their title this season.
Hickson won the District 12 2A title in the 800m with a time of 2:12.38 then placed second in the PCL and state championship in the event.
The First Team All-Catholic junior in the 800m has seen firsthand what it takes to compete at the level Townsend Jr. expects of his athletes and it has had a trickledown effect.
Neumann-Goretti 4x800 Relay Team (L to R) junior Mykala Perry, senior Dasia Wilson, head coach Lincoln Townsend Jr. senior Sanaiya Watts and junior Kami Joi Hickson- PSD Photo by Patty Morgan)
“I’ve definitely seen a lot of dedication from each individual team member,” Hickson said. “Each person has really stepped up to do their part in all aspects of each relay and their individual events. That type of determination has helped spur each other to do their part even more.”
This mentality was put on display when Wilson, who will be attending Howard University on a full track & field scholarship, “had back issues and left the team after Penn Relays,” according to Townsend Jr. The team had to rely on sophomores Sherisse Peterson and Kimberly Johnson, both of whom were on the state winning 4x800m team. Townsend Jr. has always been “a firm believer in the next person up. We don’t concentrate on who we don’t have. We focus on who we do have.”
Watts is committed to Rhode Island while Perry has received interest from Clemson, TCU, Penn State, Pittsburgh, South Carolina, Texas and Hickson has heard from Georgetown, UPenn, Pitt, Penn State, Clemson, Arkansas.
The standout on the boys outdoor team was senior Tre’Sean Bouie, who won the 2A state title in the 400m in 47.98. While he was a First Team All-Catholic in the 400m, Bouie will be playing football at Assumption College in Massachusetts next season. He had focused much of his time to football and baseball early in his high school career but “it wasn’t until he wasn’t being used by the baseball team a lot that he gave it up for outdoor and he has had the most success since he’s been on the team. He went undefeated in the 400m for the outdoor season,” according to Townsend Jr.
Neumann-Goretti senior Tre’Sean Bouie won the 2A state title in the 400m with a time of 47.98 - PSD Photo by Patty Morgan
The Neumann-Goretti track & field program has grown so much since Townsend Jr. took over and he has a metaphor on how to build a program from the ground up that isn’t all too surprising but certainly drives the point home.
“I equate it to building a house,” Townsend Jr. said. “You build a house from the basement floor up. Through the years, by the Philadelphia Catholic League indoor championship, we’re working on the basement and going onto the first floor. By the state indoor meet, we’re on the first floor going to the second. By Penn Relays, we’re working on the third floor and by the state outdoor meet we’re working on putting the roof on the house.”
Kevin Thomas came into the Haverford School track & field program with varsity football experience. The freshman joined the indoor team in the winter and began competing in a sport he hadn’t been a part of in a few years. Still, his sheer athleticism allowed him to make a seamless transition back onto the track, especially in the hurdles.
Fords head coach Luqman Kolade knew Thomas had options to choose from in each sports season with his natural ability but wanted to see if he could maximize it on the track.
“He ran in the winter but he did football in the fall,” Kolade said. “He was considering playing basketball in the winter but he chose to run instead. He hadn’t run competitively for a team in like two years. He was a little rough in places but he’s naturally a good hurdler. The hurdles came pretty well for him.”
The 6-3, 175-pound runner broke the school record in the 110m hurdles with a time of 14.40 while also winning the 300m hurdles (40.50) at the PAISAA Championships.
To put Thomas’ performance in the 110m into perspective, the next best time was 15.19. He was named a Pa. Track & Field Coaches Association All-State Honorable Mention in the 110m hurdles.
Haverford School freshman Kevin Thomas broke the school record in the 110m hurdles with a time of 14.40 - PSD Photo by Patty Morgan
With all of the success from his inaugural season, Thomas was invited to run in the 110m hurdles at the New Balance Nationals where he was the only freshman to compete. He finished in 30 out of 62 runners in the preliminaries. He came in second in the freshman triple jump at nationals with a score of 45’4.25” to close out an astounding first season. Kolade believes “with the way he’s running, he’s the type of kid that I could see winning in two years.”
It was all smooth sailing for Thomas in year one. He had his fair share of trying moments such as in the 110m hurdles at the Inter-Ac Championships, where he did not finish. “That was essentially like a lightning bolt for him,” according to Kolade. He came to win the league title in the 300m later in that meet. Thomas’ performance helped the Fords win the Inter-Ac title for the first time since 2015, Kolade’s first season as head coach.
Kolade ran track for UPenn from 2001-04, where was a three-time letterwinner and helped the Quakers win the 4x400m Ivy League outdoor title in 2002. He’s gone up against some impressive runners in his time and he’s also coached his share of gifted athletes but he’s not sure he’s seen one as talented as junior Daiyaan Hawkins.
Another football player, who was a Second Team All Inter-Ac selection as a defensive back as well as the Fords leading rusher last season, Hawkins won the 100m and 200m titles at the Inter-Ac Championships but his excellence extends indoors. He ran a 6.45 in the 55m dash at the Ocean Breeze High School Invitational (N.Y.) in January and that time is the best in Pa. He’s ranked No. 1 in the 55m and 60m for indoor track & field by PA MileSplit.
Haverford School junior Daiyaan Hawkins won the 100m and 200m titles at the Inter-Ac Championships - PSD Photo by Patty Morgan
The Pa. Track & Field Coaches Association All-State Third Team selection in the 100m qualified for the New Balance Nationals but he hurt his hamstring in the PAISAA Championships in that event, where he ran a time of 11.00 and finished second.
Kolade was very blunt when depicting where Hawkins stands heading into his senior season.
“He’s the fastest kid ever to come through the Haverford School,” Kolade said. “It’s pretty cool to see some of the stuff that he’s doing and the attention that he’s getting.”
With Thomas and Hawkins leading the way, the Fords are primed for a big year both indoor and outdoor in 2019-20.
Salim Epps captured the PIAA Class 3A title in the 400m after coming in second in the event at the Philadelphia Catholic League Championships.
The St. Joseph’s Prep junior finished the state title win in a time of 47.48. He also claimed the 400m and 200m titles at the District 12 3A Championships.
Archbishop Ryan’s Kelsey Sebwe took home three titles at the District 12 3A Championships: triple jump, long jump and 100m hurdles. She dazzled in the triple jump with a score of 36’2.50”. Additionally, she ran the 100m hurdles in 15.82. Sebwe, who was one of two athletes to be named a First Team All-Catholic in four separate events, claimed the 300m hurdles at the PCL Championships. She was an All-Catholic selection in triple jump, long jump, 100m and 300m hurdles.
St. Joseph's Prep junior Salim Epps won the PIAA Class 3A title in the 400m - PSD Photo by Patty Morgan
Archbishop Ryan's Kelsey Sebwe was one of two athletes to be named a First Team All-Catholic in four separate events in the triple jump, long jump, 100m and 300m hurdles - PSD Photo by Patty Morgan
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