After each high-jump attempt, Megan McCloskey looked toward the bleachers. There, a couple of rows up at sun-splashed Franklin Field, her father was shouting encouragement and, with hand signals, giving instruction for future tries.
"It's helpful, because he knows what he's doing," the Germantown Academy senior said about the former football star. "He's been coaching me since I was in fourth or fifth grade."
With a mark of 5 feet, 71/4 inches, McCloskey tied for fourth place in the girls' high jump championship Thursday afternoon at the Penn Relays.
McCloskey has terrific athletic bloodlines. Mike McCloskey was a tight end at Father Judge, Penn State, and in the NFL. Her mother, Mimi, shined as a half-miler at Penn State and, as one of GA's track and field assistants, is always nearby.
"My dad is really good at firing me up," Megan McCloskey said. "My mom is good with the technical stuff."
McCloskey has been competing at the Penn Relays for nearly a decade. She made her first appearance as a runner for a CYO team from St. Alphonsus in Maple Glen.
"It's always real special to be here," she said. "The sights, the sounds, the crowd. There's nothing else like it."
McCloskey, an erstwhile basketball player, flourished in the first three rounds Thursday. She was eliminated with three misses at 5-83/4. Krista Gay-Taylor, from Jamaica's Alpha Academy, took top honors at 5-101/2.
"I wasn't getting the speed I needed to get," McCloskey said of her approach. "That's something I need to work on."
McCloskey, also a long and triple jumper for GA, had only one previous outdoors showing. She registered 5-7 at last Saturday's R. Joseph Kellerman Relays at Great Valley. Her personal record is 5-9.
"In the high jump, with it having such a mental component, you're going to get better and have more confidence the more you do it," Mimi McCloskey said.
Megan McCloskey, whose sister Kiernan plays hoops at Lehigh, will continue her athletic career at Penn State, following in the footsteps of her parents.
"It's almost like my second home," Megan McCloskey said. "With football games, reunions, and track meets, I've been there so many times. And the energy there is over the top. It's a perfect fit."
Titans advance. With Kaitlin Poiesz leading off, Central Bucks South posted a time of 9 minutes, 12.57 seconds in the girls' 4x800-meter relay and qualified for Friday's championship final.
Poiesz, who is headed to La Salle, was joined by fellow senior Alexa Kwapinski (Lafayette) and junior sisters Amber and Brianna Stratz.
"Our training coming into this was really good," Poiesz said. "We push each other every day. We were optimistic about our chances."
The Poiesz name should ring a bell for area track and field enthusiasts. Paul Poiesz, Kaitlin's father, coached at Bishop McDevitt for 20-plus years and is now an assistant at C.B. South. He also serves as a Penn Relays starter.
"I was in fourth grade when I started running," Kaitlin Poiesz said. "My brother [Matt] and sister [Megan] were also runners. Matt ran at C.B. South and was part of a 4x800 team that set a national record [7:33.48 in 2008]."
Also advancing to Friday's final were Great Valley (9:11:26), Strath Haven (9:16.99), Central Bucks West (9:18.20), and Pennsbury (9:21.47).
Fitzgerald shines. Avon Grove assistant coach Paul Eyanson was all smiles after watching senior Moriah Fitzgerald tie for fifth place in the girls' pole vault with a mark of 11-113/4.
"Her degree of focus is amazing," Eyanson said. "She's one of the neatest people I've ever worked with. She's made this year really fun."
It was Fitzgerald's first year as a pole vaulter at the Penn Relays. The last two years, she was part of Avon Grove's 4x100 and 4x400 teams.
"I didn't get a PR [personal record], but I'm happy that I medaled," said the 18-year-old, who vaulted 12-2 earlier this month.
Fitzgerald, also a hurdler, is considering Mount St. Mary's (Md.) and West Chester for college. The West Grove resident plans to major in physical therapy.