UPPER PROVIDENCE >> It started out as a pasta party for the Cardinal O’Hara cross country team Friday night. It ended up with the Lions’ Ryan James headed for the hospital and in danger of not being able to defend his Delaware County Cross Country championship at Rose Tree Park Saturday.
Things eventually worked themselves out, and James not only got to compete at Delcos, he joined his brother, Kevin James, Dan Savage and Kevin Thomas as two-time champions from O’Hara. Ryan James’ winning time was 15 minutes, 44 seconds, 24 seconds ahead of Penncrest’s Avery Lederer, who took second place.
Patrick James of O’Hara finished third, Haverford’s James Abrahams, the early leader, took fourth place and O’Hara’s Gavin Inglis placed fifth as the Lions posted one of the lowest team scores in meet history with 25 points.
“I was one of the first ones to get to my friend’s house for the pasta party,” Ryan James said. “I saw they had a basketball net out back, so I was shooting around and doing layups.
“I decided to try to dunk, and the first dunk was successful. On the dunk the rim came crashing down on my head. I didn’t think there was anything wrong until I put my hand on the back of my head and saw all the blood. Then I got pretty shaken.”
In addition to feeling a lot of pain, James was worried that he would have to tell his coach, Tom Kennedy, that he couldn’t compete in Saturday’s race.
“They put a towel and some ice on my head,” James said. “And they called the ambulance to take me to Bryn Mawr Hospital. My parents were going to a wedding reception right near the hospital. I asked the doctors and nurses about a concussion, then they wound up gluing a small cut back together. They had to put nine staples in my head. One of the first things I asked the doctor was if I would be able to run (Saturday). He said as long as I didn’t fall and hit the back of my head I would be all right.”
Despite the rainy conditions, James was able to stay upright as he paced himself through the first mile then pulled away from the field.
“I saw what the other guys were doing, then when we went to the horseshoe I took off,” he said. “I didn’t want anyone to get too far ahead, so I worked my way to the second mile, then took off. Temperature-wise it was good for running.”
Kennedy just shook his head when asked if he had any concerns over whether James would be able to take part in his race.
“That’s typical of Ryan,” Kennedy said. “He just makes things hard for himself. But he’s just a fantastic runner. This is phenomenal winning this meet again. Ryan’s been a medalist all four years and Billy Donovan has medaled three times. Our boys are ranked third in the state, and we’re hoping for big things in the meets coming up.”
Patrick James said he and his brother and most of the O’Hara runners put in a lot of miles together over the summer.
“We really got out fast today,” he said. “I knew I wouldn’t be up there with my brother, but I got through the last mile and a half as best I could.”
Inglis was a little shaken after seeing what happened to Ryan James Friday night.
“We have a good sixth man, but we would really have missed Ryan if he couldn’t have run today,” Inglis said. “It was great to finally hear that he had been cleared to run.
“I had had two good races and Briarwood and the Foundation Meet. I wanted to do well today, and I want to be ready for the meets we have coming up, like Catholics, District 12 and states.”