BUCKTOWN >> There were plenty of winners at Wildcat Stadium Wednesday.
The record will show Spring-Ford was the top school in the three-way Pioneer Athletic Conference meet at Owen J. Roberts. But the athletes and coaches — so, too, the fans who attended the meet — were all winners, freed from a two-year absence the COVID-19 pandemic inflicted on the sport.
“I’m proud of the effort that was put out,” SF head coach Danielle Stauffer said following her team’s respective 93-57 and 78-72 victories over the Owen J. boys and girls teams. “It was a good starting effort, considering we hadn’t raced for two years.”
Though his teams came out on the short end of the score against their neighboring PAC rivals, Tim Marcoe was equally as joyous about the end to the forced hiatus … seeing the performances of Wildcat seniors and juniors were lower-level underclassmen the last time they competed on their home track.
“It’s good to be back,” he said. “Everyone was positive and nice. It was like a reunion.”
Even Norristown, significantly understaffed, was glad to be in action. The Eagles also had to endure a 2020-21 school term during which their fall and winter sports programs weren’t able to compete.
“What we’re trying to do,” Norristown head coach Milton Williams said, “is continue the tradition of Norristown track and field. What we tell the kids to do is put themselves on the shoulders of giants.”
The Spring-Ford girls’ win over Roberts was secured by a first in the 4×400 relay finale. The Rams clocked a 4:23.24 to nip OJR’s 4:23.71, with junior Neme Mokonchu, a double-winner in the high jump, running a strong anchor leg.
Kailey Hudson was a three-event winner for the Rams with her sweeps of the 100 (12.29), 200 (26.35) and long jump (16-7 3/4).
“With only 10 practices, it’s hard to evaluate,” Stauffer noted. “This was a nice gauge.”
OJR’s Claire Zubey, who had a medal-winning fall running cross country, showed off her distance-running skills by placing first in the 1,600 (5:18) and 3,200 (11:15). She also anchored the girls’ winning 4×800 relay, which clocked an 11:05.48 to outdistance Spring-Ford’s 11:53.83.
“It felt really good,” the sophomore, who hung with the boys’ pack for the first half of the combined male/female 3,200 field, said. “It’s good to run races again.”
“She trained real well and stayed in good shape,” Marcoe added.
On the boys’ side, Spring-Ford’s Josh Hellauer dominated the jumps with his sweeps of the high (6-3), long (20-4 1/2) and triple (41-10) events. Kyle Kennedy added another pair of firsts in the shot put (50-5) and discus (133-8).
“I like our competitive spirit,” Stauffer said. “The kids were cheering each other on.”
Andrew McGonigle, a mainstay of OJR’s boys cross country team last fall, won the close distance races. The sophomore edged Quinn Smith in the 1,600, 4:39.29-4:39,70 and took the 3,200 by a seven-second margin over Anthony Bamford (10:20 to 10:27).
“We’re like a different team,” Marcoe said. “You can’t simulate the experience. But our times in a lot of areas were better than expected. Overall, our performances wer better than I would have expected.”
Norristown got the bulk of its points in the sprints and short-distance relays. Elijah Hildrith swept the 100 (10.79) and 200 (22.16) while the Eagles’ 4×100 team crossed the finish line first in 43.33.
“We have the opportunity to do something nice at states,” Williams said. “We have to keep our composure.”
NOTES >> Owen J’s scores in its portions of the meet with Norristown were 127-22 (boys) and 139-10 (girls). Spring-Ford’s scores against the Eagles were 128-21 (boys) and 118-11 (girls). … The meet experienced several instances of the electronic timing system malfunctioning, the first time during the running of the 100 heats. That necessitated the use of hand timing.