Extracurricular activities can sometimes bring tasks you'd rather not perform. Hey, just like the school day!

Though Kelly Unger loves running in relays for Cardinal O'Hara High's highly successful track program, she prefers the duty that immediately follows the sound of the starter's pistol.

"I personally like leading off," she said. "I like being able to see all the people around me, so I can key off them. When I'm in the lead, I freak out."


Yesterday, Unger was asked to perform anchoring duties twice for the Lions in what was only the biggest meet of the year, the Catholic League Championships at Widener University.

There was no freaking out. No great collapse. Unger took the baton in first place, and then kept it there.

Those victories in the 4 x 400- (4:03.44) and 4 x 800-meter relays (9:41.75) yielded 20 points. She picked up two more with a fifth-place finish in the 800 (2:26.01) and O'Hara wound up claiming the title plaque with 156.5 points, a bunch more than somewhat close pursuers Archbishop Carroll (101) and Archbishop Prendergast (96).

The first three runners in the 4 x 400 were Robyn Oakley, Diane Garrison and Chloe Stretchings. Preceding her in the 4 x 800 were Emily Scanlon, Katie McShay and Mary Rose Gawbill, and that race wound up being a tight one; Carroll was second in 9:42.62.

"I guess I run leadoff about 75 percent of the time," Unger said. "I knew I'd be anchoring today. [Coach John McShay] explains his reasoning sometimes. Other times he just sends you out there. Whatever your job's going to be, you have to be ready.

"It helps having teammates you can rely on. But anchor . . . lots of pressure."

Unger then detailed her least favorite scenario.

"I hate running past the stands and hearing the different groups [of athletes/fans] making noise," she said. "It makes you think people are going to run right past you. Actually, I have a bad habit of looking behind me to check things out."

O'Hara's overall headliner was Sarah Houtmann, who swept the 100, 200 and 400 with times of 12.50, 25.78 and 58.34 seconds. Other track winners were Caroline Grant in the 3,200 (11:37.50) and Oakley in the 400 hurdles (1:04.42). Field triumphs went to Brigid Harron in the high jump (5-feet) and Alysha Womack in the long jump (16-8 1/4).

Unger is headed for Richard Stockton College in New Jersey to major in biology, and she plans to compete in track, as demanding as it can be.

"There are times when I get a little tired of it, but in the end I do love it," she said. "I can never pull away."

And what pulled her in?

"I can't even remember for sure why I got into track," she said. "I do know I started in the fourth grade, though."

She then added with a laugh, "Wait, I think it was this: One of my friends kept saying she was faster than I was, and I wanted to prove her wrong . . . The rest is history." *