John Knebels
Sports Columnist

Sometimes it’s not about winning a gold medal. Sometimes it’s not about winning anything at all. Sometimes it’s just about competing and enjoying the moment.

When the 117th annual Penn Relays took place last week at the University of Pennsylvania’s Franklin Field, many of the fastest runners and strongest athletes on the planet converged in oft-riveting fashion.

But while numerous athletes traveled thousands of miles in hopes of establishing new records, many others either hopped on a school bus or got a ride from a car pool or family member to bask in the rare opportunity to take center stage among the best of the best. {{more}}

“It’s hard not to get excited,” said Lansdale Catholic senior Mary Maletz. “You look around and you realize that there are some amazing athletes who come to that meet. It’s really something to see, let alone be a part of.”

Maletz and Kelsey Duggan were the only two senior runners representing the Crusaders, who field a relatively small track team and have almost as many field event specialists as it does runners.

In many ways, athletes like Maletz and Duggan represent the beauty of the Penn Relays. Both are excellent competitors, but neither is a star runner. Same could probably be said regarding their respective “major” sports. Maletz is a four-year soccer player who missed all but one game of her junior season because of a broken collarbone and recovered well enough to be named honorable-mention All-Catholic last fall; Duggan was a four-year front-line member of the volleyball team who was among the Catholic League leaders in blocks this past winter.

Both seniors played sports at Lansdale Catholic because they, using their word, loved it. Both were disappointed when their teams did not win a Catholic League championship. Both run track for similar reasons – they enjoy the camaraderie among teammates and also enjoy getting to know their opponents off the field.

“You never know who you’ll meet along the way,” said Duggan, who is also a member of the school’s National Honor Society and Spanish Honor Society. “You get to have friendships with people from different schools, and it’s a great way to meet people at your own school.

“Playing sports is how Mary and I got to know one another. We hit it off right away because we have similar philosophies. We have the same priorities, and we both believe in setting goals.”

Despite being gifted athletically, both were careful to keep their goals in perspective as they continued to mature. Although they arguably possess the talent to compete collegiately, neither believed playing a college sport was likely.

Turns out they were correct. Maletz will study business at Temple University; Duggan will prepare for a career in special education at Penn State University’s main campus.

The only regret they have moving forward is that time can’t stand still for a little bit. “I can’t believe how fast everything went,” Maletz said. “Seems like it was just yesterday we were freshmen.”

Duggan agreed.

“April flew by, and now May is doing the same,” she said. “It’s kind of sad, actually.”

At the relays, Maletz led off the 4×400 relay before the baton sharing included freshman Anna Benecke, Duggan, and freshman anchor Kristen Sczezpaniak. Thanks mostly to a sensational contribution by Sczezpaniak, the Crusaders finished sixth in their heat. Maletz was also on the 4×100 relay that placed seventh in their heat.

Interesting to note that both seniors are actually distance runners who were a bit out of their element, but it really didn’t matter. Winning wasn’t the main objective. Making use of their copious abilities was the goal.

By that measure, which really counts the most, Maletz and Duggan both earned a gold medal.

John Knebels can be reached at