Ryan James, O’Hara keep tradition alive

UPPER PROVIDENCE >> For seven years now, Cardinal O’Hara’s boys varsity team has only known what it’s like to reach the pinnacle of the county’s cross country scene, and stay there.
The Lions’ latest display of dominance Saturday at the Delco Cross Country Championships featured six Cardinal O’Hara boys runners finishing among the top 15 in the varsity race.
It also marked O’Hara’s seventh consecutive boys varsity winners plaque, a new county record and another milestone for what was already the meet’s winningest team entering Saturday.
“We have built an institution here. Literally, it’s an institution within the school,” Lions assistant Joe Sacchetti said. “It’s a tradition where people know that the O’Hara running program is going to get national attention.”
And, naturally, training as a young runner alongside those who have helped uphold and expand that tradition can only help. If one of them happens to be your brother, well, that can only help more.
Enter Lions junior Ryan James, who picked up right where two-time boys champion and reigning cross country Delco runner of the year Kevin James left off at Rose Tree Park last fall. Ryan, last year’s varsity runner-up took the top spot in 16 minutes, 2 seconds, while senior teammate Rob Morro completed the one-two punch with his result of 16:15.
James was once a wide-eyed freshman learning from an O’Hara team that captured a national title in the boys distance medley relay at that year’s New Balance Indoor Nationals meet at the Armory in New York.
His time as a JV runner, though, was brief.
“I was like, ‘That’s crazy,’” James said of his team’s accolades of the past. “If I get varsity on that type of team, that’s going to be crazy for me … I had to work hard in workouts to get better like everyone else, and in races, too. I had to show the times and stuff like that to get on varsity.”
James won the Bulldog Invitational’s JV race at Rose Tree as a freshman in 2013, and turned in a 10th place varsity finish in the Delco meet later that fall.
Mission accomplished.
“His whole season is the second half of the season. This may as well be the start of the season for him,” Sacchetti said. “He does what he does, and when you throw him in a big meet, he rises to the top.”
Often the team’s dependable third finisher last year behind the James brothers, Morro continued to provide support Saturday, running with James for much of the race until the last mile.
A few lessons learned in his past, he said, have helped him stay toward the top of the sport in local and state circles.
Speaking of former O’Hara runners Nick Smart and Jim Belfatto, Morro said, “They taught me what it means to work hard, and (Kevin James) showed me what it means not to be a wimp.”
O’Hara showed the county Saturday that it still sports the area’s deepest team with a 31-point afternoon, well ahead of runner-up Strath Haven (71) and third-place Haverford (75).
And yet, other runners like the Fords’ James Abrahams were happy at day’s end. Abrahams, who finished 17th among last year’s varsity competition, crossed in what he said was an unexpected third-place time of 16:24.
“I definitely improved a lot from last year. I definitely didn’t expect it at all,” he said of his race. “In terms of placement and high-rank type competition, this is pretty up there. This is pretty important for me.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply