A banner year for Swenson

Posted: June 21, 2007

There was a lot of excitement surrounding Southeastern Pennsylvania girls' track and field teams this season.

The area boasted 13 gold medals, seven runners-up and 13 bronze medalists at last month's PIAA track and field championships at Shippensburg University.

In winning the Class AA team title, Swenson became the first District 12 girls' team to win a PIAA team championship.

While Swenson celebrated that milestone, Germantown Academy enjoyed winning its third consecutive Inter-Ac title.

And just as in previous seasons, at least one individual and/or relay team was ranked nationally.

Here are some of the highs and lows of the season:

Team of the year. In addition to winning the state title, Swenson is the Inquirer's Southeastern Pennsylvania team of the year regardless of classification or league. Cardinal O'Hara, North Penn, Germantown Academy and Girls' High deserved strong consideration. But the youthful Lions peaked at the right time, just the way dominant champions are accustomed to doing.

Not only did Swenson make history with the state title, it is the overwhelming favorite to repeat next season.

Standouts Shanae Bailey, Vanessa Mack and Jayee Wright are freshmen. Two other talents - Anthonia "Mouse" Ballard and Kristy Neou - are sophomores.

In Bailey, the Lions had the best freshman in the state. She won Class AA individual titles in the 100 and 200 meters at the state meet. She also teamed up with Wright, Ballard and Mack on the Lions' winning 4x100 relay.

Ballard was much more than a talented relay runner. She won the 300 hurdles and placed fifth in the 100 hurdles at the state meet.

Ballard also joined Bailey, Mack and Neou on one of the area's top 4x400 relays.

Coach of the year. As successful as Swenson was, one would think all coach Dean Lent had to do was make sure the team bus arrived to meets on time. However, Lent was the calming force behind Swenson's success. He persuaded his runners to drop their egos for the good of the team. As a result, the Lions transformed from a group of individuals into what they called a loving family by season's end.

Performance of the year. Methacton's Ryann Krais showed why she is one of the nation's top track and field athletes during the Class AAA portion of the state meet. She won the 100 hurdles, 300 hurdles and long-jump events. Krais also joined Alicia Melnick, Courtney DeGemmis and Eileen McCarthy on the Warriors' third-place 4x400 relay. As a result, she had a hand in all 38 of her team's points to finish second in the team competition.

Tough luck of the year. Shaniel Chambers had the second-fastest qualifying time for the final of the Class AAA 800 race at the state meet. But the Chester junior never made it to the starting line of the final. The victim of an allergy attack and early afternoon heat, Chambers was only able watch the race from the stands.

Best performance by teammates. Swenson's Bailey won the Class AA 200 race at the state meet, while Mack finished third. They were the only teammates to nab two of the top three places in an event at the state meet.

Contact staff writer Keith Pompey at 610-313-8029

or kpompey@phillynews.com.

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