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Wood’s Hamilton hopes for golden spring


“Alexander Hamilton … You never learned to take your time,” Broadway sang.

Gwen Hamilton never learned to take her time either.

There are very few Philadelphia Catholic League track worlds left for Archbishop Wood’s Hamilton to conquer. Wood started its PCL outdoor season on April 8. Hamilton is the defending PCL outdoor 800 meter and mile champion, having won last year’s 800 (2:17.06) by nearly four seconds over second-place Quinn O’Brien and the mile (5:16.89) by more than 20 seconds over runner-up Aleah Lazar.

In the track and field season, spring hosts outdoor meets, fall is for cross country and winter is for indoor competition. This past October, Hamilton clocked a 20:22 to repeat as the PCL cross country champion. She won the Catholic League title by over a minute and came in 11th at the PIAAs.

In February, Hamilton was named the PCL Girls Track MVP when she won the league indoor 400 meter, 800 meter and mile.

And she is only a sophomore.

“I started running in first grade. I started because my brothers ran and I did it for fun for a couple of years,” Hamilton remembered. “Around seventh grade, I joined my club team and started running at big meets.” Her success made her realize how talented she was.

Hamilton butters her bread in the 800 meter. “I like how the 800 is a full sprint for two whole laps. It’s really fun,” she shared. Hamilton said that her strength is her start. One of her focuses is “holding that to the end” and not getting outkicked in the finish of elite competition.

“Monday and Thursday are my workouts,” she explained. “The rest are easy days. I’ll do a long run on Saturday. My workouts depend on what my goal is for the next race meet. I go to the gym after each workout and do lifts.”

Track is a sport where competitive runners can easily overexert their bodies. Hamilton places importance on her Sunday rest day. She also plays basketball and spends summers swimming for her club team to mix things up and give herself a break.

As the stage and level of competition has grown, Hamilton has answered the bell. She placed third in the PIAA 3A 800 (2:10.34) meter last May. In February at the PTFCA Indoor Championships at Penn State, Hamilton silvered with a 2:08.17. Just one-third of a second separated her from a gold medal.

Despite her eye-popping resume, Hamilton is not resting on her laurels. Elite runners can be very lonely during school meets as they win by large margins. In last year’s PCL championships, 13 seconds separated Hamilton from the fourth-place finisher in the 800 meter.

At the same race at the state championships two weeks later, just four seconds separated the first- and eighth-place finisher.

As these runners face stiffer and similar competition, they learn to run in packs. Hamilton is no exception and is mindful that handling traffic is the next step in her track progression.

Hamilton may have made her leap from good to great in early March. At the 2024 Nike Indoor Nationals in the legendary New York Armory, the Viking finished second in the 800 meter – against nearly 50 elite competitors – with a personal best of 2:08.07. For perspective, that was just two seconds removed from a finisher in the NCAA indoor 800-meter championships.

“Nationals were a really cool environment and I was just so happy to be there,” she said. “The competition and meet were great. I got a lot of confidence from that meet going into the outdoor season. And I’m excited for the season.”

While Hamilton clearly has a Division I future, coaches cannot contact Hamilton until June 15. Her focus however is on the here and now.

“My main goal is definitely to improve on my times. I really want to win states but it will be tough with the competition,” she admits. “I’ll work towards that.”

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