By John Knebels
A sea of young athletes graced University of Pennsylvania’s Franklin Field at the archdiocesan CYO track and field championships early last month.
But as much as the annual athletic affair seemed typical, the end results and multiple broken records added some different elements. Perhaps influenced by the pure simplicity of young competition minus the distraction of bellowing coaches and eager scouts, spectators were treated to authentic sportsmanship. As much as the athletes wanted to win, it was obvious that they wanted their competition to perform well, too.
“Definitely,” said Bernadette Tankle, who graduated last month from St. Maximilian Kolbe in West Chester. “Let’s be honest. Everyone out there is trying to win. But in the end, you’re happy for anyone who has a good day. I feel good for them, and I know I would want them to feel good for me. I think everyone probably feels that way.”
Tankle had reason to feel very good considering she captured first place in the shot put. Considering that she never even threw a shot put before last year, her accomplishment was somewhat amazing.
A swimmer and softball standout, Tankle “needed to do something” last spring because her grade school didn’t compete in softball. So she took advantage of her athletic frame by trying her luck at throwing a shot put. After initial doubts, she began enjoying the many nuances of the field event.
Tankle was reflecting on that after snaring the archdiocesan gold – the same result she had garnered in the previous regional and area meets.
“I was so excited,” she said. “This isn’t even my sport and here I was winning the meet. I felt really grateful. Life is such a happy accident.”
While Tankle was enjoying the throes of victory, a loud sound began to build about 75 yards away. Megan McCloskey, another recent grad, from St. Alphonsus Parish in Maple Glen, was gaining momentum as she attempted to establish a record in the cadet (13-14-year-olds) high jump.
All of a sudden, pandemonium ensued. McCloskey, who already holds the record (5 feet, 4 inches) in the minor category (11-12-year-olds), broke the mark of 5-3 set by St. Alphonsus graduate Taylor Morgan in 2008 when she cleared 5 feet, 7 inches.
“The place just absolutely erupted,” said Tankle. “People from all different schools were clapping and hugging her. And that is exactly what you want because that’s what it’s all about.”
By the time the day was finished, several new names and parishes toppled the previous best performances. As for the most impressive inspanidual performance, Marissa Sheva of St. Agnes-Sacred Heart in Sellersville broke records in the minor 800 and 1600 runs.
Then there was Moira Putsch of St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Media, who was nothing short of sensational.
Putsch already holds meet records in the minors’ 100-, 200-, and 400-meter runs along with the novice (9-10-year-old) 400 meters. When she packed her gear to head home, she had set a cadet record in both the 400 meters and long jump. She had also finished first in the 100 and 200, coming within six-tenths of a second from setting a new mark in the 100.
Other new cadet records included Dave Stellato of St. Anthony-St. Joseph Elementary School in Ambler in the 800 and Robert Farley of Assumption of Our Lord in Feasterville in the 200. St. Patrick Parish in Kennett Square won both the boys’ 4×100 and 4×200, and St. John the Evangelist in Lower Makefield came out on top in the girls’ 4×200.
Gesu School in Philadelphia set a minor record in the boys’ 4×200, and novice marks included Quinn McCahon of St. Patrick in Malvern in the long jump; Hannah Sexton of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Doylestown in the girls’ high jump; Ryan Miller of St. Martin of Tours in New Hope in the boys’ high jump; St. Mary Magdalen in Media in the girls’ 4×200; and Holy Cross in Springfield in the boys’ 4×200.
John Knebels can be reached at email@example.com.