Swenson Track Team's Winning Stride

Small Northeast team makes a big impact on city sports

For years, it was easy to identify the top sports teams in Philadelphia’s public leagues. Overbook, West Philadelphia, Ben Franklin and Simon Gratz dominated basketball. Northeast, Frankford and George Washington ruled football. And Northeast, William Penn and Gratz prevailed in track.

However, in the last decade, Swenson Arts & Technology, a tiny high school in the Northeast corridor of Northeast Philadelphia, has emerged as the track capital of the city. This year, the boys won their first public-league title and the girls won their third. The girls also finished second in the state outdoor meet, losing by one point after winning it all in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

“I think overall, this was our best boys and girls seasons together,” said coach Dean Lent. “We have dedicated kids who put the work in and really want to get better.”

So how did this tiny school far away from many of the well-known big schools in the city, become a track paradise?

Well, it’s not the facilities. The teams run in the hallways of their buildings or outdoors in a marked parking lot. Lent and legendary assistant coach Tim Hickey, the former long-time state-champion coach of William Penn, mark the running routes with white chalk to guide their runners. In time, they have figured out what times their kids will achieve in meets on real tracks, based on the times they achieve running around their simulated concrete circles.

“When I first came outside, we said ‘where is the track? But eventually, the lines we saw on the blacktop made sense and we flourished. and enjoyed it,” said senior Jay Hardy.

Like the Simon Gratz basketball team in its heyday, the Swenson track team members run cross-country in the fall. The school’s basketball coach allows his players like Haneef and Jay Hardy to run track during the season when time allows, as well. Jay will be playing hoops for Shippensburg next year, and Haneef will run for the University of Pittsburgh.

Lent added, “There is great support of our kids here.”

Swenson Track Team's Winning Stride
Jeremy Treatman - Contributor

Jeremy Treatman is the founder and co-director of the Scholastic Play-by-Play Classics and Sports Broadcasting Camps. Over 50 NBA players, including Lebron James, Kevin Durant, and Rajon Rondo played in his events when they were in high school. Jeremy wrote high school sports for the INQUIRER for 10 years, and was the first TV reporter for the HIgh School Sports Show on Channel 29 from 1994-2001. He currently is Comcast's announcer for all high school games.


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