Coach Kyle Rankin has Abington Friends on the right track (and field)

Sam Shally, Ace Bibbs, Chase Balick, and Sydney Smith make up the record-setting sprint medley relay team for Abington Friends School.

After many years of seeing a zero in the win column, the Abington Friends School boys’ and girls’ track-and-field teams have finally flipped the scoreboard.

Coach Kyle Rankin, who was a cross-country runner for Germantown Academy in the 1980s, has preached work ethic, commitment, and dedication since taking over the AFS program in 2016. Under his leadership, the team has doubled in size.

“As a coach, you have to have that enthusiasm and passion,” said Rankin. “I think that’s what the kids gravitate to more than anything else.”

Since the program began in 2004, the boys’ and girls’ teams at AFS had gone more than 100 meets without recording a win in the Friends Schools League. That all changed on April 10, when both teams claimed victories over Westtown School.

Camera icon COURTESY OF KYLE RANKIN
Abington Friends School track and field coach Kyle Rankin.

“We did not see that coming,” said Rankin. “We didn’t necessarily think that we were quite ready for Westtown. It turns out that we were.”

The milestone day gave the boys and girls confidence. The boys’ squad is 4-1 overall and 3-1 in the FSL, while the girls’ team is 2-3 overall and 1-3 in league action. In fact, the boys are among the favorites to win the FSL championship on May 12.

On April 21 at the Central Bucks West Relays, the sprint medley relay team of Sam Shally, Ace Bibbs, Chase Balick, and Sydney Smith ran the fastest time posted by an independent school in Pennsylvania during 2018. The time of 3 minutes, 50.38 seconds, which was good for fourth place at the relays, ranks 10th all-time on the state independent school list.

The boys’ team is led by junior co-captains and twins Chase and Jack Balick. Chase Balick broke the AFS indoor 1,600-meter record during the winter and anchored the sprint medley relay team at Central Bucks West.

Jack Balick owns the school record in the 800 (2:00.44) and has his sights set on some big things in the weeks to come. Chase and Jack were both part of the school record-setting distance medley relay team that posted a time of 11:23.12 at the Temple Owls Relays a few weeks ago.

Senior Madison Tillmann, who will continue her running career at Ursinus next year, has been a mainstay on the girls’ team. She has captained eight teams (cross-country, indoor track and outdoor track) since Rankin’s arrival.

Camera icon COURTESY OF ABINGTON FRIENDS
Senior Madison Tillmann.

“Upon assuming my role here at AFS, I knew immediately that Madison would be something special and an important part of the building process,” said Rankin.

Rankin also ran at the University of Tennessee and was a member of the team that won the 1991 NCAA outdoor track-and-field championship. Before taking over at AFS, Rankin was an assistant coach at Eastern University in Radnor.

“My goal coming in was to build something that the whole community could be proud of,” said Rankin.

The recent success is impressive considering that Abington Friends, an independent Quaker campus in Jenkintown, doesn’t have a track on school grounds. But that may change.

The school plans to break ground on a $9 million state-of-the-art athletic facility next month. Phase I of the project will include a basketball court, a fitness center, a public lobby with a concession stand, a multi-purpose room, a training room, three team rooms, boys’ and girls’ locker rooms, and administrative and coaches’ offices. Phase II calls for a $3 million three-season track and artificial-turf field and an enhanced athletics and wellness program.

The new building is planned to be open for use in February 2019, pending final approvals from Montgomery County.