CALN >> The buzz began to build a week ago, when 15 former Pennridge track and field athletes turned out to see the Rams compete — and win the conference title — at William Tennent High.
All of the attention followed them to Coatesville.
“It was really unexpected. I was running to the snack stand actually believe it or not,” Ram ace thrower Griffin McMann said with a laugh, “was gonna get cookies and stuff, and there’s a bunch of guys like ‘hey, Griffin,’ like eight or 10 of them there. It was cool to see.”
This Ram team has stood out. Continuing a strong legacy of track and field at Pennridge as well leaving their own mark, the Rams surged to their first ever District One Class AAA team title Saturday at chilly Coatesville High.
“Well it’s never been done before for Pennridge so we’re quite proud,” said coach Bob Hosier, who has guided the program for 34 seasons. “It’s a first. The girls have won some championships here but not the boys.
“And what’s surprising is that it was a true team effort — we didn’t have any first places. It’s like we always preach to the guys, ‘it’s the seconds, thirds, sixths, sevenths and eighths that help build the points.’”
The Rams’ title effort was part of an impressive weekend for locals, one in which the North Penn girls captured runner-up honors in Class AAA.
Pennridge, its senior group going 24-3 in dual meets over the last four years, had enough points for victory by the end of the 200 dash, holding off host Coatesville.
“Everything came together,” Hosier said.
And on a day where there were numerous injuries and scratches as well as some misfortune, Pennridge survived its share to come out on top.
Points came from every section of the track. The 4×800 relay team raced to silver (7:53.47); Alex Dimon raced to eighth in the 100 hurdles (16.27) and was a bronze medalist in the 300 hurdles (39.48); Matt Eissler battled to sixth in the 800 (1:56.18); Josh Pinkney was sixth in the 200 (22.43) and the 4×400 relay (3:22.21) held on for fifth.
The field, as Hosier said, “filled in the cracks.”
The Rams had a pair of medalists in the long jump with Matt Ludlow leaping to fifth with a 20-6.25, Ryan Sattelle getting eighth with a 19-2.75, and they also doubled up the points in the shot — McMann, who will throw for Ursinus next year, pushed to a silver with a 52-11.5 and Riley LaRiviere was seventh in the shot put with a throw of 49-3.25.
The Rams pulled off another rare feat: they put their coach at ease.
“Usually a little tense. Riley always grabs me and says ‘I got your back, coach. I got your back. Relax,’” Hosier said.
“It’s like a brotherhood out here,” said senior Austin Howell, who takes his racing spikes with him to Iowa next year.
Pennridge came close to a district trophy in 2016, placing second.
Said Dimon, another Ram senior: “We came up here last year, saw what Downingtown West did, and we went after it this year.
“We’ve been coming up together, since freshman year. We came up through the ranks, and it was great to come out here and work as a team.
“These younger guys, they can repeat,” Dimon said. “We need to keep this going.”
The North Penn girls kept making their way to the top of the medal stand, bookending the meet with wins in the 4×8 and 4×4.
Uche Nwogwugwu, a member of both of those relays, also defended her title in the 400.
“It was really good competition. They always push me,” said Nwogwugwu, who held off Cheltenham’s Alexis Crosby for the win, cranking out a 54.87, “so it felt really good to come out on top today.”
Both Nwogwugwu and Vlasic were wearing three gold medals by meet’s end, with Vlasic taking first in the 800 and also — with an amazing sprint to the finish — bringing NP from behind to win in the 4×8.
“That was scary. That was really scary,” she said with a smile. “Strath Haven’s really good, probably our top competitor in the 4×8. (That helps us) just knowing, going into states, that it’s not gonna be easy for us to take it.”
Jenna Webb, Nwogwugwu, Ariana Gardizy and Vlasic combined to win the 4×8, Vlasic, Natalie Kwortnik, Jess Brenfleck, and Nwogwugwu doing the honors in the 4×4.
“(Stacking the events), I feel like it’s best for us,” Vlasic said, “making us strong runners. We’re mentally tough, which I think is really good.”
The Central Bucks West boys 4×8 foursome of Brian Baker, Luke Fehrman, Alec Cofer and Jake Claricurzio also found their way to a gold.
“It feels real good considering my freshman and sophomore year here, we were runner-ups,” said Claricurzio, a junior for the Bucks, then gesturing over to the medal stand. “It was good to finally sit on the front of that thing. And it’s a really cool experience for (the SOL Continental) to get first and second (Pennridge), to show how strong our conference is and bring it up to the district meet and come out on top.”
Another SOL Continental representative was Souderton Area’s Stephen Scott, champion of the 300 hurdles.
“I really wanted to win back to back and I’m glad that I did,” said Scott, who crossed in 38.46, helping Big Red to pack quite a punch in the team scoring. “I’m definitely looking forward to states.”
Madison Langley-Walker added another gold on Saturday, outracing everyone in the 300 hurdles.
“In the last 100, I fixed my stride, got it together and pulled out the win,” said the Upper Dublin junior, who crossed with a first-place time of 43.41.
Methacton’s John Keenan won gold in the javelin with a throw of 178-0 and over in Class AA, Dock put together an all-around performance on the boys and girls side, finishing as team runner-up in both.
The Pioneer boys just missed a title defense, as did the girls, by just one point to St. Basil.
But tremendous performances poured through for the Pioneers.
“This year has definitely been a struggle for us, especially after losing so many vital athletes from last year,” said Sabrina Demetrius, a senior who won her second gold of the competition with a win in the shot put (33-4.5). “But the girls team is in the process of building again.
“Hopefully next year the younger girls shine through.”
Dock golds also included Lindsey Bernd in the javelin (101-1) and Abbie Woods in the 300 hurdles (48.91).
For the Dock boys, Alex Martin won the discus (152-3); Nick Smith took the 110 hurdles (16.14) and 300’s (41.81), the 4×4 team was a winner in 3:32.26; Ian Anderson was tops in the 400 (51.15) and Austin Kratz was a winner in both the 100 (10.78) and long jump (21-10.75) on Saturday.
Next up is the State Championships, next weekend at Shippensburg University.
Top Photo: Shanahan’s Kegan Hughes, right, edged Pennridge’s Alex Dimon in the 300 hurdles at the District 1 Track and Field championships on Friday, May 19, 2017. Dimon took third in the even Saturday as Pennridge won the boys Class AAA team title. (Pete Bannan/Digital First Media)