Aside from the state meet next weekend, Saturday’s is the biggest day of the season for R.I. high schools with every team from the state converging at Ponaganset High, ready to attack 3.1 miles of real estate on the Chieftains’ covered-bridge trail for the annual class championships.
Who are the teams and individuals to watch in each class? Here’s what we consider the ones to watch.
This year’s La Salle Academy squad has to be considered one of the best in the school history with its top runners capable of sweeping the first three placements at next weekend’s state meet and a supporting cast that includes several athletes that could be No. 1 or No. 2 on most of the other teams in the state.
Unless their bus breaks down and they never make it to the starting line, expect the Rams to run away with their second straight class title and sixth since 2007. The La Salle trio of junior Eliza Rego (17:38.29), junior Karina Tavares (17:59.55) and senior Sheridan Wilbur (18:11.36) own the three fastest times. Who will win out of the group? It doesn’t really matter. Look for the Ram teammates to run together from start to finish, utilizing the race more as a fast tempo run than an all-out race.
South Kingstown’s gifted freshman Ellie Lawler, who captured last week’s Bronco Invitational with an outstanding time of 18:22.97, is the only runner within striking distance of the Ram threesome. You also can’t forget Barrington’s Emma McMillan, the two-time defending state champion. Even though her best this year is just under 19 minutes, the Eagle junior (18:54.83) always comes prepared to excel during crunch time as evident by her past success. North Kingstown sophomore Bethany Nunnery (18:56.07) also has potential to place with the leaders.
Like the boys, this could be a preview of the state meet. Five of the top six teams in the state are in Class A. La Salle appears untouchable. Led by junior Amy Laverty (18:55.24), junior Meaghan Scullin (19:13.12) and senior Nichole Barger (19:13.78), Cumberland has potential to secure No. 2 in this race. The next four spots seem like a toss-up between quality squads such as South Kingstown, North Kingstown, Barrington, Coventry and Chariho Regional.
After winning the last three Class C crowns and four of the last five, Smithfield jumped up to Class B this season and the results could be similar. The Sentinels, a runner-up to Cumberland in the Northern Division, have four runners among the top eight – sophomore Sydney Bagus (20:40.0), senior Rebecca Meinertz (20:45), senior Stephanie Mattson (21:00.73) and senior Madison Saliba (21:01.19).
Led by freshman Randi Burr, who ranks No. 3 in the class with a 20:20 best, Westerly will pose the biggest threat to Smithfield. The Bulldogs have five of their scoring runners listed in the top 18.
Bay View sophomore Claire Hanlon, a sixth-place finisher at last year’s class meet, is a slight favorite to win it all this fall. She has the fastest time in the field with a 20:04.80 clocking. Portsmouth sophomore Sofia White is No. 2 with a time of 20:13.71 and third is the Bulldogs’ Burr.
It looks like a duel between East Greenwich and Burrillville in this one. With four of its runners ranked in the top 10, the Avengers hold the edge. E.G. is led by senior Margaret McCaffrey, who is No. 2 in the class with her best this season of 18:53.93, a time she ran to place third at the Bronco Invitational last week. Senior Thedita Pederson (19:37.6), senior Sophie Cooke (21:32.86) and senior Caroline Blessing (21:37.32) should also finish high. Burrillville senior Betsy Dumais ran a best of 19:15.04 at the Maine Festival of Champions earlier in the month and was just a second slower at the Bronco Invite at 19:16.67. Senior Kaidy Connell (20:51.19) and senior Ruby Perry (21:42.83) are also solid for the Broncos. It’s anybody’s guess what order the next four finishers come in with Mount St. Charles, Scituate, The Prout School and Moses Brown similar in talent.
The race for individual honors could come down to Narragansett junior Marissa McPhillips and the Avengers’ McCaffrey, the only runners in the field that have broken 19 minutes. McPhillips owns the fastest split with her best of 18:46.42, a time she did to place second at Burrillville last week.