Varsity Runner Survives Heart Scare Because Her School Was Prepared

MALVERN, PA--Phil Genther has been coaching track and cross country for 36 years, including 18 at his current post directing the girls’ programs at Villa Maria Academy, a tiny Catholic school in Malvern, Pennsylvania. During his nearly 40-year career, Genther has seen his share of athletes suffer injuries and other unfortunate occurrences that are associated with running.

At the last two PIAA Cross-Country Championships, he witnessed a pair of athletes get hit by deer while out on the trails.

But there is nothing that compares to what the 60-year-old coach had to experience back on Sept. 13 with one of his top varsity runners. It’s something that very few coaches have ever had to witness during their tenures.

Genther was down at the school’s track, directing his squad through a rare tempo run, when junior Blair Allan, a tall, slender harrier collapsed during the cool-down period.

“We were just about done with our workout and she stopped, leaned over and fell to the ground and went into cardiac arrest,” he said.

Luckily for Allan, fate was on her side that day. The chain of events that would happen in the next few minutes saved her life. The normally-active playing fields at Villa Maria had just a jayvee field hockey game being played on the field inside the track. Two assistant athletic directors happened to be at the game, manning the scoreboard. A trainer was also at the field with an AED (automated external defibrillator) machine.

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