All photos by RAPHAEL BIEBER
It’s all about running you’re best race at the State Meet.
While the class championships are important and a good tune-up for bigger and better things the following week, it’s still not the State Meet. The goal for any high school athlete or team, especially the contenders, is to make sure you're healthy and right on track for the states.
That was the thought process by a trio of veteran coaches at Saturday’s class championships where three of the top runners in the state watched from the sidelines - Bishop Hendricken senior Michael Potter, La Salle Academy junior Jack Salisbury and Barrington junior Emma McMillan.
On the bus ride to Ponaganset High for the meet, Eagle coach Ann Marie Marino made the last-minute decision to scratch McMillan, the two-time defending state champion, from the Class A race.
“Emma has had a tightness in her quad so it was kind of my decision not to run her. She wanted to run today,” said Marino. “I asked her on the bus to give me the whys and why nots and the why nots overweighed the whys. I didn’t even have a why. I had all why nots so I decided not to run her. She wanted to run but I didn’t think it was in her best interest to run. This is a very difficult course to run. For a quad injury, going up and down those hills, she would have fought.”
It was all about La Salle in the McMillan-less Class A event. The Rams’ gifted threesome of junior Eliza Rego, junior Karina Tavares and senior Sheridan Wilbur swept the top three placements en route to a dominating 21-78 victory over second-place North Kingstown. Rego, the state’s top-ranked harrier, cruised to a winning time of 18 minutes, 13.71 seconds for the five-kilometer course.
The teammates ran together for most of the 3.1-mile distance.
“We wanted to take the first mile out slow. We did about 5:43 and wanted to do about 5:45. That was good, I guess,” Rego said. “We wanted to stay together. We weren’t trying to go really fast today. We were just trying to pace, seeing how we feel.”
When the guns was fired at the start, the La Salle runners assumed McMillan was in the field.
“We figured out in the middle of the race she wasn't running,” Rego said.
“She was cheering us on,” Tavares added. “We were like, ‘What?’”
La Salle had its four remaining varsity runners place among the top 12 with junior Cianna Lynch (seventh, 19:18.96), junior Audrey O’Neil (eighth, 19:20.39) completing the scoring. South Kingstown freshman Ellie Lawler (18:34.56), Barrington freshman Grace Connolly (18:47.75) and North Kingstown sophomore Bethany Nunnery (19:01.49) occupied the fourth through sixth positions, respectively.
“The girls ran well,” La Salle coach Kelly Martin said. “The game plan was to keep it a little easy the first mile and try and keep the one through seven gap close together. The top three girls came through the first mile in about a 5:40 and all the rest of the girls came through in 5:50. To see the one through seven, 10 to 15 seconds of each other, was absolutely excellent.”
The Hawks’ Potter, who is currently ranked seventh in the state, was battling a bad cold the day of the meet with a fever of 101 degrees. La Salle was minus Salisbury, who hasn’t raced since the Injury Fund Carnival in early September due to a quad injury.
La Salle coach Ken Skelly indicated that his top harrier will be on the line Sunday. Salisbury has been maintaining his fitness level with pool workouts incorporated into his training. Last year, the Ram junior was second at the states.
“It will be good to have him on the line,” Skelly said. “We are excited to have him in the mix. It’s definitely going to help us. The moral is very good to have him in the mix. We are excited about that.”
The nationally-ranked Rams captured their second straight class title this past weekend by defeating second-place Hendricken, 21-43. Cumberland finished third with 74 points.
Sophomore D.J. Principe, the fastest runner all season, won the individual title with a time of 15:50.98. He held off a gallant effort by Cumberland junior Sean Laverty, who snared runner-up honors at 16:00.38.
“I knew he’d be there. He ran great at Brown,” said Principe, making reference to the Brown Invitational on Oct. 18 where Laverty was the top Rhode Islander with an all-time best of 15:39.4. “I knew he’d be somewhere around there. I wasn’t sure exactly where he’d be. It definitely didn’t surprise me to see him there.”
La Salle’s five scoring runners were separated by less than 40 seconds. Finishing third was junior Matt Bouthillette at 16:06.22. Junior Jake Grundy was fourth in 16:15.58. Senior teammates Dan Paiva (16:19.04) and Chris Notarianni (16:30.61) were sixth and seventh, respectively.
“We had a good day, but there is definitely room from improvement there,” Skelly said. “It’s tough to gear up for the class meet when you still have the state meet ahead of you. We had a great race from our number five runner, Chris Notarianni. He did a great job. He fell right into the fold. D.J. Principe and Matt Bouthillette put themselves on the map as some of the top contenders for next week’s state meet.”
Principe did most of the pace-setting at Saturday’s meet, opening up with a 4:51 at the mile mark. Laverty made a surge past Principe with roughly a mile remaining, but the La Salle runner quickly regained order.
“He passed me going up the hill right after two miles,” Principe said. “I didn’t really want him to get any gap on me so I pretty much took it over once we got to the top of the hill. I took it back over and worked the downhill and kind of just started moving from there.”
Laverty ignored any pressure by the La Salle runners in the beginning stages of the race.
“They tried to throw a throw a few surges to try and get rid of me but none of them really worked,” he said. “I sort of didn’t really think about my time. I just looked at the back of their heads and tried to stay with them.”
“We told him he can run with anybody,” Cumberland coach Tom Kenwood said. “That’s what he did. There is five of them on him. They kept putting surges on him. He kept matching their surges. He ran away from the pack and stayed with Principe.”
Barrington was an easy winner in the Class B boys’ race, defeating Toll Gate, 25-111. The Eagles occupied the second through six positions with senior Gerard Guerreri leading the charge in second place at 17:07.18. Classical’s Joe Murphy won the race with a time of 16:46.18.
Murphy never relinquished the lead from the gun.
“I had a race against Barrington earlier in the season and I stuck behind them and they all (pulled away from) me in the end,” Murphy said. “They are all competitive runners so I just wanted to break them when I could that first mile. I broke them, 4:57 first mile, I think. Originally I just wanted to do even miles all three splits. I thought that would be a good race strategy. But I knew to win this race I couldn’t count anybody out, even though I was ranked first.”
In the girls’ Class B race, Westerly freshman Randi Burr cruised to a dominating victory, breaking the tape in 19:13.06. Bay View’s Claire Hanlon, a sophomore, was second at 19:41.16. With four of its runners among the first nine finishers, Smithfield earned the team plaque with a 42-66 decision over runner-up Westerly. Sydney Bagus was the first Sentinel to cross the line, taking third in 20:09.63.
“I am very happy with the way we ran,” said Smithfield coach Jon Marchand. “(Smithfield boys’) coach Joe Bennett has a little different training program than what we have been running during the summer. We felt that maybe we peaked a little early the last few years. Today I think we just started our peak so I am excited about next week. Year’s past I thought we were kind of struggling at the states, but they look really fresh now and I am confident going into next week.”
Burr was competing on Ponaganset’s covered-bridge trail for the first time.
“I was very leery about going out fast,” she said. “I didn’t know how I could pace myself or what the course would even be like. Once I tried to make a lead I just tried to keep it as long as I could.”
Noah Barretto and East Greenwich came out on top in the boys' Class C race. Barreto, a senior, won with a time of 16:35.13. Mount St. Charles’ sophomore CJ Berg was second in 16:41.30. The Avengers beat Smithfield, 32-86, for the team crown.
The East Greenwich girls also took care of business in the Class C race. Senior Margaret McCaffrey held off Narragansett sophomore Marissa McPhillips with a winning time of 19:33.45. McCaffrey was timed in 19:38.47 for second. The Avengers slipped by second-place Burrillville, 46-64.