Entering as the #1 seed in the Boys’ divisions, the GFS Varsity and JV Cross Country teams delivered at the 2021 Friends Schools League Championship, hosted by Westtown School on Oct. 19. Both Boys' teams finished first among eight teams in the FSL. The Varsity Girls clinched 2nd place, edged by a narrow margin. The JV Girls shone too, securing a solid 2nd place finish.
For the Varsity Boys team, it was an awe-inspiring 19th consecutive FSL Championship victory. Top that with the fact that yesterday, the squad outscored the second-place team by 68 points.
"Tradition and stewardship are a big part of the team's identity and I think the boys did a great job of honoring those that came before them by building upon the previous successes of the program," said Varsity Head Coach Conrad Haber. "While the race wasn't as pretty as we would've liked, the boys adjusted to the racing scenario they were presented in order to execute the race plan and secure the win to keep the streak alive."
In preparation for the upcoming State meet, Coach Haber added: "There is still work to be done as the focus now shifts towards the PAISAA state meet, where the team lost by 1 point the last time it was contested. It has been a goal for this team since the start of the season to bring the PAISAA title back to GFS, and based on the adaptability and resiliency I saw from the team at the FSL Championships, I think the boys are ready to take on the challenge that awaits them at States next Saturday in what should be an extremely close and competitive race."
The Varsity Girls were led by GFS frontrunner Anna Macdonald ‘22 who finished second overall with a time of 19:15.33. Close behind, fellow Tiger Annika Marcelis ‘22 came in third at 19:32.36. Two more runners -- Katya Henisz ‘23 (21:16.61) and Emma Nam ‘23 (21:32.17) finished in the top-10 at #6 and #8 respectively. Rounding out the Varsity Girls’ runners were Cora Rosin ‘23 (25:14.79) and Naomi Shaffer ‘26 (25:19.63). Senior Sadie Hammarhead did not finish due to injury. The squad’s second-place finish puts them in good position for the PAISAA State Championship on Sat., Oct. 30, with their eye on upsetting yesterday’s mix as well as a handful of elite runners from neighboring leagues.
"I'm really proud of how hard the girls fought in what was the most hotly contested and competitive race of the FSL Championships," said Coach Haber. "As a program, we talk about being patient, adjusting to the race as it unfolds, and leaving everything on the course so that the opposition is forced to elevate themselves to win. We expected the race to be an extremely close contest and I was impressed by how hard the girls battled for every last inch of the race while embodying the values of the team in a stressful competitive environment. While I know that the girls were disappointed in being narrowly defeated, I was impressed by their resiliency following the race, as they were already channeling the experience into fuel for the upcoming PAISAA State meet where they will get an opportunity to exact some revenge."
The Junior Varsity Boys swept the competition with all seven runners finishing ahead of the competition -- a rare feat in the sport. The sweep is also a resounding message that the legacy of GFS Varsity Boys Cross Country is in excellent hands. Leading the JV pack for GFS was Angus McIlvain ‘24 (19:17.84) followed by #2 Dean DeSeve ‘24 (19:21.41), #3 Jiaray Shi ‘25 (20:25.20), #4 Jasper Mosley ‘24 (20:28.62), #5 Caleb Hess ‘24 (20:32.73), Leo Gade ‘25 (20:57.13), and Luca Capecchi ‘24 (21:06.15).
Coach Haber sung praises for the JV Boys' perfect performance: "The JV boys were simply dominant. We talked about the potential of achieving a perfect score (going 1st-7th) at the FSL Championships and the team executed the plan to perfection, racing with confidence and a desire that they would not be denied. The results are even more impressive when you recognize that this was the first-ever FSL Championship meet for the athletes competing in the JV race. The JV race is critically important to our program because the top individuals from the JV race will move up to replace the graduating members from the varsity race each year; the stronger the JV team, the stronger the varsity team. We've been fortunate at GFS to have had the depth to allow athletes to develop at their own pace so that when they are called up to the varsity team, they are ready to shoulder the responsibility and expectations. As a group, the boys on the team this year have improved immensely from where they began during our pre-season practices in August and I couldn't be more proud of how hard they worked to get to where they are today; they are ready to tackle the challenges that lie ahead."
In the Junior Varsity Girls race, Jane Keenan ‘25 took first place with a time of 26:14.59, more than a minute before #2 crossed the line. Mackenzie Baisch ‘23 finished third at 28:09.61. The balance of the team included: #7 Rhea Malakar ‘25 (29:31.42), #14 Laila McNeil-Lozano ‘24 (36:36.08), #15 Imayah Hawkes ‘23 (36:58.68), #18 Ayanna Uppal ‘25 (38:45.97), and #21 Maisie Quinn ‘25 (47:00.76). The team finished second with a score of 34.
"I was really impressed with the aggressiveness displayed by the girls in the JV race as they made it clear from the gun that they weren't going to be passive on the course," Coach Haber added. "It was fantastic to watch the girl's race with confidence and showcase how much they have improved over the course of the season, I'm really excited about the direction the program is heading."
All four of GFS’ Country Country teams will take part in the PAISAA State Tournament next week, Sat., Oct. 30, at Belmont Plateau. Check the Athletics Schedule for start times, don your orange, and come out and cheer on the Tigers at States!
cover photo: Jane Keenan; photos top to bottom: Anna Macdonald, Girls Cross Country team; Angus McIlvain, Boys Cross Country team; photo credit: Kathy Leister