It's thrice as nice for Smithfield!

Margaret McCaffrey never really had a race plan prior to toeing the line at the Skee Carter Bronco Invitational.

“To be honest, it was just to go out there. Just run well here today,” said the East Greenwich junior about Thursday’s race. “When I got to the finish, I looked up (at the clock) and I was a little surprised what was up there.”

What was up on the clock when McCaffrey crossed the finish line at Burrillville Middle School was a personal best of 18 minutes, 59 seconds for the five-kilometer course and a two-second win over Smithfield junior Stephanie Mattson.

As far as the team prize, it was Mattson and the Sentinels that claimed the crown for the third straight year with a 59-72 victory over runner-up North Kingstown. South Kingstown was third with 120 points and East Greenwich took fourth by compiling 138 points.

Smithfield’s winning squad was comprised of Mattson, junior Rebecca Meinertz (eighth, 19:51.3), junior Genesee Daley (14th, 20:38.69), sophomore Cassidy Bissitt (16th, 20:36.09) and junior Caitlin Paredes (23rd, 20:58.67).

“I thought they ran very well,” Smithfield coach John Marchand said. “I thought we had our best race last year as a team at this meet. It was different circumstances this time. We had the Wickham Invitational on Saturday (a meet the Sentinels placed third out of 22 teams). I think we were a little tight from that today. But with that being said, we had a lot of girls run PRs today. The whole team ran well. I have nothing to complain about.”

McCaffrey, a sixth-place finisher at last year’s state meet and one of the top harriers this fall, ran with a pack of five runners that included Mattson, Narragansett sophomore Marissa McPhillips (third, 19:17), East Greenwich junior Thedita Pederson (fourth, 19:23) and Burrillville junior Betsy Dumais (fifth, 19:33.41) for a good portion of the 5K race.  Dumais pushed the pace around the midway point, but with about a half-mile remaining McCaffery and Mattson broke from the group.

The E.G. runner made a surge up the final uphill portion of the course, about a quarter mile from the finish, and held off her Sentinel rival down the stretch.

“I could tell that the last half mile Margaret was going strong,” Mattson said. “I was just hoping for the best.  I am still very happy. This is my PR.”

Also finishing among the top 10 in Thursday’s race was Ponaganset senior Fiona Beltram (sixth, 19:41.23), North Kingstown sophomore Hannah Guadreau (seventh, 19:46.34), North Kingstown sophomore Hannah Niebel (19:52.86) and Lincoln sophomore Amanda L’Esperance (tenth, 19:59.21)

McCaffrey and Mattson are two runners that have potential to be among the elites at the state meet next month. But with a loaded field that features several athletes capable of a time in the low 18s, it won’t be easy.

“I had a good meet last year and I kind of can’t figure it will be like last year,” McCaffrey said. “This year it’s ten times more difficult. Obviously I just want to do well and be with the top pack.”

Marchand is making sure his runner doesn’t get caught up about placement.

“The state meet is going to be crazy,” he said. “I think it’s a mistake to focus on places. We have to focus on training, mile splits and trying to improve on time….I think she can run under 20 minutes. I think there will be a lot of girls under 20 minutes. We are just going to focus on time.”