By John Knebels
Special to The CS&T
Cardinal O’Hara’s returning runners remembered the feeling.
Suffice to say, it wasn’t pleasant.
“We had a bad taste in our mouths,” said O’Hara senior Joe Sacchetti. “We definitely didn’t want to go through that again.”
Sacchetti was referring to last year’s Catholic League indoor track and field championship in which the long-time defending-champion Lions were defeated by upstart Father Judge.
Although it stands to reason that a team must lose at some point, Sacchetti and his peers did not want to be on the team that ended the proud championship streak. However, Father Judge possessed one of its most powerful squads ever, and the Crusaders proved too much for the Lions and the rest of the league.
On Sunday afternoon at Lehigh University, O’Hara’s boys regained control of the title in convincing fashion. Led by senior Jason Johnson, named the outstanding male field events performer after placing first in both the long and high jumps not to mention the 60-meter hurdles, the Lions’ 139-point team scored twice as many points as second-place Judge (69).
St. Joseph’s Prep, La Salle and West Catholic placed third through fifth respectively in a spirited fight separated by only 4 and a half points.
“It was a great team effort,” said O’Hara coach Tom Kennedy. “They stayed focused throughout the meet and did a great job.”
In the days leading up to the championship, Sacchetti said Kennedy had reminded the Lions not to take anything for granted.
“I think he just wanted to make sure that we didn’t get too comfortable,” said Sacchetti. “I’m not really sure if he believed we were in danger of losing because we definitely were favored coming in, but it was a good idea to make sure that we knew what was at stake.”
The Lions immediately turned some heads when freshman Chazz Wilks captured an unforeseen gold medal in the shot put. Sacchetti, who is considering attending Johns Hopkins University, said Wilks’ upset triumph “very much set the stage” for the rest of the Lions’ runners.
Before it was over, Sacchetti would seize a gold medal in the mile run while senior Bill Morgan (60-meter dash), senior Mike DeStefano (3,000-meter run) and the relay team of senior D’Artagnan McCalister, sophomore Adam Dempsey, junior Everett Burgess and Morgan (4×200-meter relay) followed suit.
Despite enormous collective fatigue, Sacchetti anchored the 4×800 relay that included junior Ricky Sheller, sophomore Chris Garrity and DeStefano to a second-place finish, two seconds behind winner St. Joseph’s Prep.
“We were all coming off long inspanidual events,” said Sacchetti, a member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Springfield. “It would have been nice to finish first, but I think we did okay by taking second.”
Meanwhile, the O’Hara girls continued their Catholic League dynasty. Archbishop Prendergast (75 points) and West Catholic (65) gave the Lions (101) a push, but in the end, a first-place performance by senior Robyn Oakley in the 800-meter run, a second-place finish by sophomore Anna McCloskey in the shot put and 10 third-place finishes – including each of the four relays – overwhelmed the opposition.
Much like the way she had run in last year’s outdoor championships in which she won the 800-meter final, Oakley started strong and never looked back. An impressive feat considering she did not run the event competitively until midway through her junior year.
In the high jump, Hallahan sophomore Kristen Thomas set a meet record. Her five-foot, four-inch leap beat the seven-year-old record by an inch, helping her to be named the girls’ outstanding field performer.
West Catholic won both outstanding runner awards. Sophomore Chante Moore finished first in the 60-meter dash and helped two relay squads snare gold medals for the girls, while junior Ozzie Bryan won both the 200- and 400-meter runs for the boys.
John Knebels can be reached at email@example.com.