Injury Fund Carnival: Rams, Hawks show their strength; McMillan coast to win

A time of 15 minutes, 45 seconds for five kilometers could win a majority of cross-country races, especially early in the season.

On Saturday morning, that was the clocking of La Salle Academy’s fourth runner!

The nationally-ranked Rams showed the state what everybody pretty much already knew at the annual Injury Fund Carnival. In the meet-opening Treacy Race, the maroon and white singlets were worn by the first 10 finishers in a dominating 15-54 triumph over runner-up Smithfield High.

Sophomore D.J. Principe captured top honors with a course-record time of 15:27.51.

“It’s the first hard effort of the seasons so I really wanted to get the legs moving and see where I am at,” he said. "I am very happy with the way it went. Everyone ran really well.”

The next four scoring runners that followed Principe across the line at the Burrillville Middle School venue were junior Jack Salisbury (second, 15:42.39), senior Jake Grundy (third, 15:45.16), senior Dan Paiva (fourth, 15:45.93) and junior Matt Bouthillette (fifth, 16:33.92). Bouthilette was competing despite dealing with some dehydration issues this past week. Had he been 100 percent, La Salle possibly could have had five of its runner under the 16-minute mark.

In all, the Rams’ top 10 runners cracked 17 minutes for the relatively challenging terrain.

“It was a hot week of training and for them to come out and be able to run through the hot humid weather and run as fast as they did makes me happy,” La Salle head coach Ken Skelly said. “We had a little bit of a gap between the four and the five - dehydration issues - but hopefully we can correct that with dual meets and getting ready for Bowdoin Park. We’ll see how that transitions.”

The Bowdoin Park that Skelly was referring to is the upcoming Bowdoin Park X-C Classic on Sept. 27 at Wappinger Falls, N.Y. That’s one of two high-level out-of-state meets La Salle will be competing at during a seven-day span. The Rams are also heading down to North Carolina for the Great American Cross-Country Classic on Oct. 4.

“Our goal is we’d like to have five or six guys that are right around that 16 (minute) mark or better,” Skelly said. “D.J. did a good job (today). He really pushed the pace. He started right out of the gate that first quarter mile. We all started really well. I like the way the guys ran.”

Principe covered the first 400 in the low 60-second range. The gifted tenth-grader shared the front-running duties with Salisbury with a few more of his teammates close behind. He made a move with just under a mile remaining.

Salisbury, who was experiencing some stomach issues, managed to gut out his second-place finish.

“(Jack) and I run really well together. That was definitely the plan. Altogether, we both motivate each other very well,” Principe said. “The hill right after two miles is where his stomach started to (give him problems). I just tried to keep the pace going.”

Defending state titlist Bishop Hendricken showed its mettle by dominating the competition in the Hird Race, sweeping the first 11 placements. The Hawks’ Avery Ingegneri, a junior, won the race at 16:36.33. He was followed by senior Nick Celico, who was timed in 16:42.77. The Hawks, who beat the second-place Prout School, 15-79, had a gap of just 17 seconds between their first and fifth runners.

East Greenwich and Barrington battled it out in the Jackson Race with the Avengers squeaking out a 29-38 decision over the Eagles.  Junior Alec Gannon (16:49.46) and senior Noah Barreto (16:54.21) spurred E.G. by claiming the top two spots. Mount St. Charles senior Colin Berg took third at 17:02.37 and Barrington’s Grant Auber finished fourth in 17:05.97.

In another close affair, Cumberland defeated Chariho Regional, 42-50, in the Caswell Race. Sean Laverty led from gun to wire, crossing the line at 16:16.46. Classical junior Joe Murphy was second in 16:36.38. Chariho senior teammates Kim Jung (16:39.46) and Nate Claire (16:49.75) were third and fourth, respectively. North Kingstown’s Nick Musumecki, a junior, was fifth at 16:53.49.

“My goal was to try and break 16 (minutes), but it was a little bit tough today,” Laverty said. “It was kind of tough running on my own but it was also kind of hot. I think I need to pick up my pace a little bit. I was just a little too comfortable out there.”

Even though the Clippers came out on top, it wasn’t their best effort.

“We were looking at a few more guys under 17 (minutes),” Laverty said. “It wasn’t a great day but we have a whole season ahead of us. We have done plenty of training. It was just a bad day.”

Lady Rams runaway with Sullivan Race

Just like their male counterparts, the La Salle girls easily captured the Sullivan Race, defeating second-place Smithfield, 15-56.

The Rams swept the first five placements with senior Sheridan Wilbur, junior Eliza Rego and junior Karina Tavares providing a lethal 1-2-3 punch. Wilbur edged Rego for the individual crown with a time of 18:22.06 to her teammate’s 18:22.48 effort. Tavares crossed the line at 18:31.69.

Rounding out the scoring for La Salle was junior Cianna Lynch (fourth, 19:29.77) and junior Audrey O’Neill (fifth, 19:42.21). Narragansett junior Marissa McPhillips was sixth at 19:43.76.

“We wanted the top five girls to stay as close as they could for the first two miles and the last mile I told the top girls to let loose a little bit if they felt good,” said La Salle coach Kelly Martin. “The goal for the top girls, we wanted Eliza, Sheridan and Karina, we wanted them to go sub 19 (minutes) and Cianna and Audrey, we wanted them close to sub 19 (minutes), also. We still got a little bit of work to do but I am looking forward to it.”

“It was great. It was comfortable,” Wilbur said. “We have been working hard all summer. It wasn’t too hard. It was a good workout, working together and a great way to start out and run cross country injury-free.”

Wilbur, off course, missed most of last year’s cross-country season due to a hip injury. But she still finished fifth at the state meet.

Wilbur was happy to begin her final season on a healthy note.

“It feels great because I am used to watching my teammates on the sidelines,” said the La Salle harrier, who skipped the entire indoor season last year, too. “As good as it is to cheer them on it feels even better to be out there racing competitively without injuries holding me back.”

La Salle, ranked among the top 25 nationally, is hoping to achieve some special things this fall.

“Obviously (we) want to do great at the states and great at the New England’s. But I think our biggest goal is to try and qualify for NXN,” said Wilbur, making reference to the Nike Northeast Regionals in late November. “I think every day in practice when it’s really hot out there and we are feeling tired, we think about our goals and what we want to accomplish this season and it keeps us going. It keeps us motivated.

“We feel the pressure but we are just trying to put that aside and get to the regionals and see what we can do there,” Rego added. “The pressure doesn’t really bother us.  We know what we can do. We know what we are capable of.”

Twin sisters Allison and Jessica Bellows of Coventry went 1-2 in the Caswell Race with Allison taking the top prize at 20:29.73 and Jessica finishing second at 20:39.46. Prout School senior Courtney Moffit was the only other runner under 21 minutes, placing third with a time of 20:47.45. Coventry beat second-place Toll Gate, 22-50 for the plaque.

In the Roy Race, junior Bethany Nunnery of North Kingstown was the first to break the tape. She pulled away from eventual second-place finisher Amy Laverty of Cumberland with less than two miles remaining.

Nunnery was timed in 19:36.42. Laverty came across the line in 19:55.60.

“I tried to get a little lead on her and tried to pick up my pace up the hills,” said the Skipper runner.

During a strong season last year, Nunnery had a PR of 19:11 for the 5K distance and was 14th at the state meet.

“I would definitely like to get all-state and improve on my PR this year,” she said.

With all of its scoring runners among the first nine placements, North Kingstown won the team title, downing Cumberland, 31-46.

Two-time defending state champion Emma McMillan of Barrington looked comfortable in winning the Hindley Race with a smooth 19:17.94 clocking. South Kingstown freshman Ellie Lawler was second at 19:34.11. Margaret McCaffrey, a senior from East Greenwich, was third in 20:21.99.

South Kingstown slipped by the Eagles for the team crown with a 38-42 victory.