Undefeated for more than five seasons, the Strath Haven High School girls’ track team last week won its 62nd consecutive meet.
Coach Bill Coren says it’s not individual talents that created this record of success (although there have been plenty of outstanding runners during the period), it’s balance. “To have a great team, you don’t need star runners. You need a good-sized team with a minimum of 20 solid athletes. You have to compete in all the events. And you have to coach all the events. We have a great staff, with six assistant and volunteer coaches in sprints [Carla Williams] and hurdles [Ryan McGlensey], high jump [Thea Carey], pole vault [Kevin Kelly], shotput [Tim Styer] and javelin [Ron Porter]. These women and men are key — you need technicians.”
Coren coached boys before coming to Strath Haven 23 years ago to take over a girls’ track program that was at a low ebb in participation and success. “My experience was that these boys are cocky and don’t really care to please their coach, and I needed a macho approach to get through to them. With girls, I realized that my job is to keep encouraging them as individuals. Sometimes, even as strong as their training has been, you have to convince them that they are ‘this good.’ I’m a ‘glass half empty’ guy. I always feel we can build on our victories, and the way I communicate that to the girls is by putting emphasis on the need and the potential for improvement.”
Almost every girl on the team (this year there are nearly 100) will improve between 9th and 12th grade, Coren says, which is not always the case among track athletes elsewhere. “You have to be attentive to physical needs and limitations. For instance, we have an excellent young runner who was frustrated not to be running as many repeats as the other runners at practice. But for a younger, smaller runner, lighter training is better.”
Participating in the Penn Relays, which convenes thousands of runners from the U.S. and abroad, is a lifetime highlight for any track and field athlete. Strath Haven’s 4 x 800 meters relay team will run the in preliminaries this Thursday, April 28, at Franklin Field in Philadelphia, aiming for a high enough finish to make it to the Friday competition. The quartet includes juniors Maddie Forbes, Isabel Cardi, and Grace Haase, and freshman Grace Forbes.
“We are a relay school,” Coren said of a team which in recent years has won state championships at several relay events. Though this year’s team hasn’t yet recorded elite times, they are improving steadily. “The top 70 4 x 800 teams on the east coast are invited to the Relays,” Coren said. “Now we’re about 30th. If the team keeps improving, maybe they can make the States.”
Haven girls, finishing in the top eight in an event at district championships in Coatesville May 20 and 21, can advance to the Pennsylvania state meet the following weekend, May 27–28 in Shippensburg. Before that, however, come the Delaware County championships May 5 through 7, where local bragging rights are at stake and Strath Haven girls are six-time defending champs. Despite the 62-meet long run of success, Coren said, “I keep telling the girls that Strath Haven is not a lock to win.”
Coach Coren cited some of the team’s top performers in the spring season. They are: Seniors Natalie Kent (shotput, discus, and 100 meter), Rachel Vresilovic (shotput, javelin, and discus, in which she holds the SHHS record), Maia Meysinger (3,200 meter), Maura Gibbs (long jump, triple jump); juniors Rachel Kent (100 meter hurdles), Claire VanDuyne (pole vault), Isabel Cardi (800 meter and 1,600 meter), Maddie Forbes (400 meter and 800 meter), Grace Haase (400 meter), Emma Borgstrom (high jump), and Bree Fisher (javelin); sophomore Taylor Barkdoll (800 meter), and freshman Grace Forbes (800 meter and 1,600 meter.)