Queens of the Catholic League track

The Neumann-Goretti girls team made program history at the Feb. 11 championship meet

Neumann-Goretti senior Sydni Townsend was named MVP of the Catholic League championship meet. Photo provided by Neumann-Goretti High School

By Bill Gelman

Imagine trying to win an indoor track championship with a roster consisting of just nine girls.

Yes, it may sound like an impossible task, but it can be done.

Just ask the Ss. Neumann-Goretti High School, 1736 S. 10th St., indoor girls track team — the 2018 Catholic League champions. The Saints won the Feb. 11 event in convincing fashion — a 152-point performance. Cardinal O’Hara, the defending champs, finished a distant second with 85 points. Head coach Lincoln Townsend spent the regular season getting the girls mentally focused on the championship goal to the point where the entire team “expected it.”

“When it happened. It wasn’t really a surprise,” he said. “We came into the season with it as one of our goals. One down, one to go.”

The Saints’ rise to the top has been a work in progress that included finishing second in the 2017 PCL indoor championship. The East Passyunk Crossing- based squad finished second to O’Hara in that meet.

When asked about the secret to the team’s success, Townsend simply responded, “I challenge them more men- tally than physically.” It includes getting each of the girls to believe they can be the best at anything. In the past, the Saints had trouble competing in middle distance events such as the 800 and 4X800. This season, several girls answered the challenge, with junior Dasia Wilson’s first-place finish (2:18.98) leading the way. Freshmen teammates Sherisse Peterson (2:24.87) and Kimberly Johnson (2:30.48) followed in fourth and fifth, respectively.

The Saints also claimed the top spot in the 4X800 (10:15.75) topping second- place Cardinal O’Hara (10:46.14).

Looking up and down the final meet results, it’s clear that Townsend is get- ting the most out of each member of the squad. There were several events in which the Saints swept the top two or three positions. In the 200, for instance, senior Sydni Townsend finished first (25.52), followed by sophomore Mykala Perry (25.77) and senior Eliza Brooks (26.33). Freshman Imira Roussaw rounded out the top five (27.87).

The 400 was another strong event for Neumann-Goretti as Townsend (57.09), Perry (57.83), Wilson (58.87) and Jones (1:02.40) recorded a one-two-three-four finish.

Townsend, who also won the 60- meter hurdles (9.41), walked away with meet MVP honors.

The standout performer also happens to be the coach’s daughter. While her Neumann-Goretti career is winding down, this standout performer still has a bright future at the University of Pittsburgh where she will continue her athletic career.

“My goal is to make sure every one of them gets a track and field scholarship to college,” the coach said.

Brooks will be attending Virginia Military Institute.

The Saints’ championship performance also included victories in the 4×200 (1:48.14) and 4X400 (4:06.15). Speaking of the 4×400, the unit of Wilson, Townsend, Brooks and Perry have the fastest time in the state this season at 3:49.05.

While the Saints have plenty to cel- ebrate this winter, Neumann-Goretti will soon switch gears and start prepar- ing for the outdoor season where they are the defending City and PIAA AA champs. Winning is just the way of life at Neumann-Goretti. The girls basketball

team entered last night’s Catholic League semifinal against Archbishop Carroll riding a streak of back-to-back Catholic League crowns. Next month, the focus will shift to the pursuit of a fourth straight PIAA crown. The boys basketball team has a championship resume highlighted by seven PIAA Class AAA titles in eight seasons, and it includes the current streak of four in a row.

“I think that we have so many All- Americans walking around the school that it’s bound to rub off on each other,” the coach said. “You don’t want to be the team that falls short.”

As far as his team’s success, Townsend said the girls “deserve every- thing that comes their way.”

Neumann-Goretti will once again look to go the distance on Sunday, Feb. 25, at Penn State University, site of the indoor state championships.

The Neumann-Goretti girls track team departed from Bethlehem with their first Catholic League indoor crown.